More First Nations in Manitoba are locking down entry points to their communities and declaring their own states of emergency as the COVID-19 pandemic escalates.
Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation leadership announced Saturday it is declaring a state of emergency and will patrol entry to the First Nation.
Chief Lance Roulette said staff will be “heavily monitoring” the five main access points to control the flow of traffic. The temporary rules went into effect on Saturday at 7 p.m.
He said leaders made the decision that day upon noticing an alarmingly high volume of vehicles going in and out of the reserve.
“For now, please, we want our membership to continue to stay home,” Roulette pleaded. He is asking people to consume the household supplies and food already in their possession.
Visitors from outside the community are not allowed in homes and public places, except for delivery trucks carrying important supplies.
Residents are being advised not to leave the First Nation, about 130 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, with the exception of staff reporting to work, getting items for essential needs and important medical appointments.
The strict measures were put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Sandy Bay has no confirmed cases at this time, although “this can change if people continue to congregate in large numbers,” Roulette said.
Sandy Bay is a community of about 3,650 people living on reserve.
“When it does hit the First Nations communities, and a lot of the chiefs are really taking those proactive measures as well to ensure that we can, you know, when our communities are hit, that we’re prepared for it,” he said.
“It’s very very clear that our members who do have chronic illnesses are also very vulnerable and are at high risk. We want to protect our children and our elderly.”
On Tuesday, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs called for a state of emergency in 62 First Nations. Its executive council of chiefs called on all First Nations that fall under its jurisdiction to close their borders to all non-essential travel, while ensuring food and supplies are still being delivered.
Individual First Nations have been following suit on their own terms.
Shamattawa introducing ‘strict’ curfew
Effective for two weeks starting Monday at 8 p.m., Shamattawa will stop non-essential travel in and out of the community. The rules apply to everyone, including chief and council, Chief Eric Redhead posted on Facebook.
The travel ban will not apply to people who need to come and go for medical appointments. Shamattawa will also be implementing a strict curfew for members and vehicles.
Redhead is advising members only go to the store for necessary items, limit their contact with others and keep their homes sanitary.
“It’s important we all practice social distancing This means staying in your homes. This is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others,” Redhead said.