First case of COVID-19 confirmed in Eabametoong First Nation, which has limited resources to deal with an outbreak
Isolation has so far protected many of Canada’s remote Indigenous communities from the coronavirus. Far from the big cities where the virus is taking the heaviest toll, they have largely been able to shield themselves from its spread. But isolation is also their greatest weakness. If the virus gets in, they are a long way from help. With crowded households, many residents in poor health and limited medical facilities, they could be devastated.
Few people know this better than Harvey Yesno. The veteran Indigenous leader from Eabametoong First Nation in Northern Ontario has spent his long career trying to build up his community and others like it. Conditions are still a long way from where he would like them to be. So, while hoping for the best, he is bracing for the worst.
“We have done everything we can to get ready for the worst-case scenario with the facilities we have, which is not very much,” he said on Friday. Eabametoong imposed a lockdown on April 1, limiting movement in and out of the community of 1,600, located 360 kilometres by air from the nearest city, Thunder Bay.
It has imposed a curfew to discourage people from gathering or visiting. It is warning people to wash their hands and practise social distancing. It has cancelled meetings and workshops.
The grocery store is limiting how many shoppers come in at one time and the nursing station is screening people at the door. The pilots and baggage handlers for the small planes that shuttle in and out of the community airstrip are wearing masks and gloves. The elementary school is closed.
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