WINNIPEG -- A Northern Manitoba First Nations community has requested the federal government to set up a field hospital within their community to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview Tuesday with CTV Winnipeg, Chief David Monias of Cross Lake First Nation noted if COVID-19 became present in his community, it could turn into a crisis.

“We are looking at a doing a lot of preventive work here with our pandemic team,” he said. “But we need infrastructure to be able to deal with these cases, not if, but when they actually come into our community.”

Monias said they have a site already selected for a field hospital.

“WhiskeyJack Treatment Centre, we use that facility for treatment purposes,” he said. “And both Norway House Cree Nation and Pimicikamak, Cross Lake, use that facility. It’s off-site from our community.”

As of Tuesday he said they have not received any word from the federal government. But he added they are hopeful they will soon get a response.  

The field hospital would be used if someone in the community tested positive for COVID-19.

Monias said Cross Lake is currently working with a pandemic team and part of their plan has been to set a barricade that serves as a checkpoint to enter the community.

“We are in full lockdown in the community, where only essential services can come in and out,” he said. “If you leave, then you take that chance to be out on your own over there.”

Monias said they have identified places of safety where community members can go. They’ve also set up a command centre at their cadet building and other places elders can go if they need to self-isolate.

He added securing supplies have been an issue. While orders have been placed, Monias said some delivers had to be cancelled.

“Other more prioritized institutions have taken over the supply, such as hospitals or areas where people are actually being looked after for (COVID-19),” he said.

Monias said the community has limited its social gatherings and are reminding residents to be vigilant with safety practices recommended by the province, including physical distancing and hand washing.