Remote First Nations not prepared for COVID-19 outbreak, MP says

Charlie Angus, Member of Parliament for Timmins-James Bay, is critical of the approach that the federal government is taking in case COVID-19 spreads to northern First Nations.

Last week, the Public Health Agency of Canada said they were working on procuring specialized isolation tents for screening and testing that could be used in communities that lack adequate infrastructure to deal with COVID-19, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

But Angus said it’ll be hard to isolate people because of a housing shortage where, in some cases, more than a dozen people live together.

“[COVID-19] would spread so fast,” he said. “How do you keep your distance in communities where you have very few resources and people are sleeping in shifts in overcrowded homes?”

The federal government said they plan to send tents to help shelter sick people, but that’s not good enough, Angus said.

Angus said that there is a shortage of hand sanitizer in many communities, and that many First Nations only have clinics which dispense mainly Tylenol — and he said there are no plans to bring in more health care workers.

That means some people who get sick will have to leave.

“How are they going to start medivacking people out?,” Angus said. ” Because it will overwhelm hospitals like Sioux Lookout or Timmins or any other community very quickly.”

Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation said he and other leaders are working closely with the federal and provincial governments to help communities prepare for COVID-19.


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