Northern Manitoba First Nation goes into lockdown after traveller to Gillam tests positive for COVID-19

By | August 22, 2020

A northern Manitoba First Nation has gone into lockdown after it says someone who travelled to the nearby town of Gillam later tested positive for COVID-19.

Fox Lake Cree Nation informed its band members in a communality update Friday of a report from public health officials that a person who tested positive was in Gillam from Aug 12-21.

The community’s emergency crisis team planned to meet Saturday morning.

The person doesn’t live in Gillam or Fox Lake but had travelled by vehicle to Gillam to visit family, it said.

It added the person was in Gillam — about 50 kilometres from Fox Lake — when they were notified they were a close contact of a confirmed case in the Prairie Mountain Health region, in southwestern Manitoba.

The person started self-isolating while in Gillam and developed symptoms, and the positive test was confirmed on Friday, the notice says. The Fox Lake notice said the person didn’t attend any businesses while in Gillam and didn’t come into contact with anyone from the Cree Nation.

As of Saturday morning, the province of Manitoba was not reporting any active cases in the Northern Health region.

A river on Fox Lake Cree Nation. No one is currently allowed to enter or leave Fox Lake’s Bird reserve after someone who was in the nearby town of Gillam tested positive for COVID-19. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Fox Lake has put its Bird reserve under lockdown. No one is allowed to enter or leave the reserve.

Keeping COVID-19 out of First Nations has been a major concern from the start of the pandemic. Many First Nations in Manitoba set up checkstops early on and created new rules like banning visitors from their reserves in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

Crowded housing conditions and poor health infrastructure could lead to devastating outbreaks, community leaders have previously warned.

The Fox Lake notice said there was no connection between the positive COVID-19 case with employees of Manitoba Hydro or the Keeyask dam site.

In May, First Nations blocked access to the site after Manitoba Hydro kept staff at the project, despite concerns about workers bringing COVID-19 into the area. The blockades led Hydro to scale back work at the site.

Gillam is located about 740 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

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