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Update on COVID-19 in Indigenous communities

Update on COVID-19 in Indigenous communities

Canada NewsWire

OTTAWA, TRADITIONAL ALGONQUIN TERRITORY, ON, July 7, 2020 /CNW/ - Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic both the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, along with Dr. Tom Wong, Chief Medical Officer of Public Health have been providing regular updates to media. In lieu of an in-person briefing this week Dr. Wong is providing the following COVID-19 update.

The Government of Canada continues to work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders and communities, as well as provincial and territorial governments to ensure that we meet ongoing needs, fill gaps when preventing and responding to COVID-19, and assist sectors of these economies so that they are all able to recover from this pandemic.

The COVID-19 curve continues to flatten in Indigenous communities as leaders are working tirelessly to make sure their community members have access to the most up to date public health information and who are advocating for the support their communities need.

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) recognizes that this virus has affected nearly every facet of day-to-day life, and continues to support the delivery of quality care, while Indigenous individuals and communities take the lead in responding to their unique, evolving needs.

On First Nations communities in provinces, as of July 6 Indigenous Services Canada is aware of:

  • 324 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19
  • 30 hospitalizations
  • 274 recovered cases

This means that First Nations on-reserve have four times lower case rate than that of the general Canadian population, three times less fatalities, and a 30% higher recovery rate.

While recently in First Nations communities in Saskatchewan and Alberta, a rise in COVID-19 cases has been noted; Indigenous Services Canada, and other partners are working with these communities to provide the supports required. There is a total of 17 confirmed positive cases in Nunavik, Quebec and all but one have recovered. To support the response to an outbreak, ISC – when requested - supports community health staff to manage cases, with contact investigations, the communication of test results, and conducting check-ins with those in self-isolation in the community.

ISC continues to quickly process PPE requests, as effectively as possible, to ensure communities are ready to respond to COVID-19, and to ensure the safety of healthcare workers and others supporting the delivery of health services. As of July 3, we have shipped 1,009 orders for PPE, including hand sanitizers, N95 masks, isolation shields, and gloves.

To date, the Government of Canada has responded to hundreds of requests from Indigenous communities and organizations to support a variety of measures, including addressing additional space for medical screening and self-isolation, support to Elders as well as contracting additional medical professionals to support communities in their response to the virus. In the instances where ISC has direct responsibility for healthcare, nearly 1,000 health professionals have been transported carefully and cautiously in and out of fly-in First Nations communities through chartered private transportation measures that reduce the risks of community exposure to COVID-19.

It is important to note that no communities will be left behind. For example, when the situation worsened in northern Saskatchewan, ISC provided $2.3 million to the North West Saskatchewan Pandemic Response Plan, a collective effort between First Nations, Métis, municipal, provincial, and federal partners to coordinate the response to the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the area. Meadow Lake Tribal Council and Métis Nation–Saskatchewan have undertaken exemplary collaboration in leading the response to this significant outbreak.

The Government of Canada also made available funding to address immediate health, economic, and transportation needs in the North. This includes transfers to the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut to support their COVID-19 health and social services preparations and response. The Government of Canada also provided funding to support northern air carriers, to ensure the continued supply of food, and other essential goods and services to remote and fly-in communities. Additional funding was also provided to Nutrition North Canada to increase subsidies so families can afford much-needed nutritious food and personal hygiene products. ISC also provided support to the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation to help Indigenous families who are choosing to be on the land as part of the territory's response to COVID-19.

The Government of Canada stands ready to support communities to respond to their needs, according to their priorities.

While these are positive developments, individuals and communities need to remain vigilant in employing measures to protect themselves, their families and communities. The federal government will continue to support communities at each stage of the pandemic, and as parts of our economy begin to reopen.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, within communities and across the country, individuals can help by:

  • avoiding all non-essential trips in the community,
  • limiting the size of group gatherings,
  • keeping a distance of at least 2 arms lengths (approximately 2 metres) from others when away from home,
  • wearing a non-medical mask when physical distancing is not possible, and;
  • limiting contact with people at higher risk, such as Elders and those in poor health, or with underlying health conditions.

ISC recognizes the importance of cultural gatherings or events. By using public health guidelines in their respective provinces and territories, First Nations leaders and ceremonial organizers can help protect community members, including those who are most vulnerable such as Elders, from the serious risks to health and safety presented by COVID-19.

As we look ahead with cautious optimism, the priority remains supporting Indigenous leaders as they work to protect the health, safety and prosperity of communities.

Quick facts

Approximately 1.7 billion has been committed in specific support to Indigenous and northern communities and organizations:

  • $285.1 million to support the ongoing public health response to COVID-19 in Indigenous communities.
  • $380 million for a distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund which includes $90 million to support Indigenous Peoples living in urban centers.
  • $10 million for emergency family violence prevention shelters on-reserve and in Yukon to support women and children fleeing violence.
  • $72.6 million for health and social services support to the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, for health and social support.
  • $34.3 million for territorial businesses, through CanNor's Regional Relief and Recovery Fund.
  • $25 million for enhancement to the Nutrition North Canada Subsidy.
  • $17.3M in support for Northern Air Carriers.
  • $15 M for CanNor's Northern Business Relief Fund.
  • Up to $306.8 million in interest-free loans to help small and medium-sized Indigenous businesses.
  • $75.2 million in 2020-21 in distinctions-based support for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation students pursuing post-secondary education
  • $270 million to supplement the On-Reserve Income Assistance Program to address increased demand on the program, which will help individuals and families meet their essential living expenses.
  • $44.8 million over five years to build 12 new shelters, which will help protect and support Indigenous women and girls experiencing and fleeing violence. The government will also provide $40.8 million to support operational costs for these new shelters over the first five years, and $10.2 million annually ongoing. Starting this year, $1 million a year ongoing will also be provided to support engagement with Métis leaders and service providers on shelter provision and community-led violence prevention projects for Métis women, girls, and LGBTQ and two-spirit people.
  • $117 million in new funding to support community-owned Indigenous businesses and $16 million in new funding to support Indigenous tourism through the pandemic and into recovery.

Associated links

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Indigenous communities 

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Prevention and risks 

Risk mitigation tool for gatherings and events operating during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Facebook: @GCIndigenousHealth 

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SOURCE Indigenous Services Canada

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