WINNIPEG -- The head of the Southern Chiefs' Organization is writing to the federal government, asking that Cuban doctors be allowed into Canada to help First Nations communities respond to COVID-19.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels is asking for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to allow the Cuban Health Care Brigades to come into Canada to assist First Nations communities.

“We want to do everything possible to mitigate potential problems for our health outcomes in southern Manitoba,” Daniels said over Skype on Friday. “We want to give all of our communities the opportunity to develop and work with healthcare professionals and hopefully mitigate all of the problems that potentially we could face.”

Cuba has frequently sent medical personnel overseas to assist countries in times of disaster. Their brigades have been recognized by the World Health Organization for their work overseas, including an award in 2017 for their work during the Ebola outbreak in Africa. 

Several brigades have been deployed worldwide, including to Italy, to help with the current pandemic.

“They’ve been very, very good at entering a community that hasn’t been given a whole lot of opportunity to develop their healthcare strategies, and they’ve been able to help and support good health outcomes,” Daniels said. “They’ve received awards for that.”

Daniels added, “We’re in a situation here that’s getting worse and worse. Before it hits our communities, we would like to start moving on this, so we can take every preventative measure possible to contain the spread, and to have health care professionals in our communities to help with that.”

As of Friday, Manitoba has reported 39 confirmed and probable positive cases of COVID-19, along with one death. 

Daniels said many First Nations have implemented states of emergencies to deal with COVID-19. Communities have closed their borders, placing bans on non-essential travel in and out of the community. He added communities are working to obtain personal protective equipment and supplies.

Daniels says the letter was to be sent Friday.