WINNIPEG -- The medical lead for the MKO is making additional COVID-19-related recommendations for Manitoba’s First Nations, including stopping all gatherings of 10 people or more.

Dr. Barry Lavallee said at a news conference on Wednesday he is making additional recommendations for the MKO, on top of what the province has already set out.

These recommendations include:

  • Family-based support and family-isolation, because many people on Manitoba’s First Nations live in homes dealing with overcrowding;
  • No gatherings of 10 people or more;
  • All schools, daycares and head-start programs should be stopped immediately;
  • Internal communities should review their workforce and try to protect employees age 50 and over;
  • Heightened protection of elders and personal-care homes, including limited or no visitation;
  • Designated grocery store times for elderly people;
  • Communities should control their borders effective immediately;
  • COVID-19 testing should be done at alternative spaces, not nursing stations or health centres; and
  • Alternative options for health services.

Grand Chief Garrison Settee of the MKO said they have been proactive and not reactive when it’s come to their messaging.

“Our ultimate concern is to the First Nations that live in the northern parts of Canada, and most particularly the 26 First Nations that we serve in Manitoba,” he said.

He said it is incumbent upon Indigenous leaders to help people navigate through this crisis, but they are confident and prepared.

“Our aim is to do our utmost to minimize the impact of the coronavirus on our First Nations,” he said.

Settee noted that COVID-19 will impact First Nations differently, due to social determinants and living conditions in the North, such as overcrowding. 

“First Nations are at a greater risk and they’re more vulnerable than the rest of Canadian societies,” he said.

Settee said the impact of COVID-19 on First Nations depends on their response, as well as the government’s response, noting they need resources to execute their plans.

“We are calling on the governments to provide the necessary resources for our people to be adequately prepared.”

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said there are no reports of COVID-19 in any First Nation communities.

“Plans have been in place for containment, mitigation, including things such as air transport, should that ever become necessary,” he said.

Roussin said the province has been working with Indigenous and First Nation partners to disseminate information and help with planning, noting they will continue to work together. 

He highlighted the need for frequent handwashing, coughing and sneezing into sleeves, and staying at home when sick. He also emphasized that social distancing is the best way to reduce the impact of COVID-19.

“This is not social isolation, this is social distancing,” Roussin said.