Canada’s chief public health officer says a COVID-19 outbreak gripping Saskatchewan’s far north is an area of concern.
Dr. Theresa Tam says not only is the region remote, but it’s home to Indigenous communities.
Health officials in Saskatchewan say the novel coronavirus arrived in the Dene village of La Loche, 600 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon, last month via travel from a work camp in northern Alberta.
It has since spread through the community, making it the region in the province with the most active cases and triggering a lockdown on non-essential travel.
Two elders living in a long-term care facility in La Loche have died from complications related to COVID-19.
During her daily briefing in Ottawa, Tam said there’s a significant number of health workers going door-to-door to search out infections.
“People are taking it extremely seriously because these are more vulnerable situations,” she said during a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has also offered its support, she said.
Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has called the outbreak alarming. He said First Nations communities are more vulnerable because of overcrowded living condition and a lack of hospital access.
The nearby Clearwater River Dene Nation and the English River First Nation have also reported cases of COVID-19.
Premier Scott Moe has said testing and contact tracing have been ramped up, so he expects the number of infections in the region to keep rising.
La Loche was not allowed to ease any COVID-19 restrictions under the first stage of Saskatchewan’s reopening plan that took effect Monday. Moe said he remains confident in moving ahead in the rest of the province, because there hasn’t been the same spike in infections.
© 2020 The Canadian Press