Canadian military team assessing COVID-19 outbreak in Opaskwayak Cree Nation
WINNIPEG -- A team from the Canadian Armed Forces is in a northern Manitoba First Nation that has been hit hard by COVID-19.
A spokesperson for the military confirmed a reconnaissance team of about eight people arrived at the Opaskwayak Cree Nation on Thursday to assess the impact of COVID-19 in the community, as well as in The Pas.
The team, which is based out of the Canadian Forces Base in Shilo, is in the community to see how the military will respond should it be called in by provincial authorities.
"It is just an assessment at this point in time. We have not received a formal request for assistance, and we can't do anything until that is determined," said Lori Truscott, the public affairs spokesperson for CFB Shilo.
"In an abundance of caution, we are conducting the assessment so that we can be prepared if that request comes in so we know what we're dealing with."
While speaking with reporters on Thursday, Manitoba's Health Minister Cameron Friesen said if the military requires the province's authorization to step in, it will be provided.
"There won't be any delay on the part of the province to enable the military to act at OCN," Friesen said, adding the province is very concerned about the COVID-19 situation on the First Nation.
The news comes days after Opaskwayak Cree Nation Chief Christian Sinclair called on the federal government to consider sending in the military.
A provincial spokesperson told CTV News the province is aware of Sinclair's request for military support, and said further details will come from Opaskwayak Cree Nation leadership or the military itself.
"Manitoba through the Northern Region Health Authority will continue to work closely with Opaskwayak Cree Nation and our federal counterparts to ensure a synchronized effort to support the COVID-19 pandemic response in the area as is done across Manitoba," the spokesperson said in a statement.
The community has been hit hard by COVID-19 in recent days, with all 28 residents of the Rod McGillivary Memorial Care Home testing positive for COVID-19. As of Monday, the community had 124 positive cases of COVID and one death.
The Opaskwayak Cree Nation is currently under a community-wide lockdown to curb the spread. A First Nations-run rapid response team is also responding in the community.
Opaskwayak Cree Nation is located about 600 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
-with files from CTV's Touria Izri