By Dave Baxter
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
With the province saying they hope to have all or most COVID-19 health orders lifted this spring, First Nations leaders are now asking for support to ensure that relaxed restrictions don’t lead to COVID outbreaks in First Nations communities in Manitoba.
Last week, the province announced they are now planning for the gradual lifting of COVID-19 health restrictions over the coming weeks and months, and said that there is a possibility that Manitoba could be restriction-free by sometime this spring.
But the announcement is concerning to both the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) and the First Nation Pandemic Response Coordination Team (PRCT) who issued a joint media release last week.
Both organizations are now asking that plans be put in place by both the province and the federal government to prevent First
Nations communities from dealing with COVID outbreaks, and the possibility of increased illnesses or deaths as restrictions are lifted.
“The relaxation of public health orders will further put First Nations at risk with potentially serious and lethal outcomes,” the press release states.
“With the provincial government looking at a restriction-free province by spring, the AMC is calling on the federal and provincial governments to develop a plan of action that will allow First Nations to stabilize the COVID-19 situation in each of their Nations.”
AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said in the release that those plans should include “the immediate development of a roll-out strategy to increase the availability of COVID-19 oral anti-viral treatment and monoclonal antibody treatment for eligible First Nations citizens.”
“First Nations citizens are at higher risk than other Manitobans for severe outcomes from COVID-19, and as such should be prioritized for these medications,” Dumas said. “Oral treatment and monoclonal treatment for symptoms of COVID-19 are important weapons in the fight against COVID-19 for First Nations citizens who meet the eligibility criteria.
“These treatments do not replace vaccines, but remain an important part of our arsenal to the overall fight against COVID-19 and its variants.”
– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.