Berens River, Misipawistik Cree Nation declare their own states of emergency to fend off COVID-19

By | March 24, 2020

Two First Nations in north-central Manitoba are declaring their own states of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Berens River First Nation and Misipawistik Cree Nation have joined several other First Nations in announcing a local state of emergency as the threat of community spread increases across the country.

In a notice posted to its website Tuesday, Berens River has declared a lockdown for “precautionary reasons” related to COVID-19, with checkpoints set up at two main access points.

The travel ban effects all members, with the exception of those going in and out of the reserve for essential purposes and deliveries of supplies and services.

Chief and council will be screening people before they are permitted entry into the community of about 1,120 people located 275 kilometres north of the Winnipeg. Non-essential travellers and non-members will be kept out or escorted through the community without any stops.

All activities planned in the First Nation are cancelled until further notice, including a talent show and a hockey tournament. The leadership has demanded the closure of the school, day care, administrative offices, as of March 13, and is asking for “extreme caution” when dealing with clients and businesses.

The declaration of a state of emergency by Misipawistik Creen Nation, about 400 kilometres north of Winnipeg, immediately put several new measures into effect to protect its members.

“Our chief and council is extremely concerned about the public health risk,” Chief Harold Turner said in a news release issued Tuesday.

Public gatherings of more than five people who are not normally residing in a home are prohibited in the community of about 865 people.

Non-urgent travel by members and visitors is “not advised” at this time.

No children are allowed in Pelican Landing and MCN Foods, which have started restricting the number of people permitted in each establishment. Only one person per household is allowed inside.

The grocery store has exclusive hours from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. for more vulnerable customers at higher risk of COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with existing health conditions.

“We are grateful we do not yet have any cases of COVID-19,” Turner said. “We encourage everyone to take the guidance we have shared to help us protect our community.”

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