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Northern Sask. First Nation enters lockdown after COVID-19 outbreak

The English River First Nation emergency management team on Thursday declared a COVID-19 outbreak in the northern Saskatchewan community of Wapachewunak.

Nine cases have been confirmed, with some being a variant of concern, the team said in a statement on Facebook.

“This is making the situation far more critical because as we are seeing the virus is spreading easier and faster. It also hits suddenly and can hit younger people harder. We are trying to get this situation contained to prevent others from getting sick. We are strongly requesting that if you are a close contact to a positive case that for the sake of the community you stay isolated. We do NOT want to see anyone succumb to this virus,” the statement said.

“When there are multiple contacts as in this situation our ability to meet the needs of all those impacted can be a daunting task. We ask that you take this COVID-19 pandemic seriously.”

The team enacted a 48-hour lockdown in order for health staff to complete contact tracing.

– The band office is closed and the health centre is open only for emergencies
– All gatherings and events are postponed, including food sales
– No visiting or inter-household visits
– A curfew is in effect from 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.
– Road monitoring and travel restrictions are in effect for two weeks

The team says COVID-19 is active in other communities in the region as well: 10 in La Loche; five or fewer in Beauval, Ile-a-la-Crosse, and Buffalo Narrows; and one each in Birch Narrows Dene Nation/Turnor Lake and Canoe Lake Cree Nation.

30% VACCINATION RATE IN LA LOCHE

The Village of La Loche is reporting a 29.3 per cent COVID-19 vaccination rate, according to the community’s Facebook page.

That’s less than the provincial figure of 69 per cent of those 18 and older who have received a first dose.

“IF, we want to gather again (Treaty Days, Yanesa Days, Etc) and open up like the rest of the province, please get vaccinated,” the village’s post said.

All COVID-19 restrictions are slated to be removed across the province if the 70 per cent threshold is reached.

The community is part of the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority. The authority’s medical health officer Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka said some people are afraid of the vaccine’s side effects or believe myths about the vaccine.

He hopes those concerns will be addressed in one-on-one meetings within the communities.

Dr. Moliehi Khaketla, a medical health officer with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said COVID-19 vaccination rates vary between communities in northern Saskatchewan.

“Some communities have very high rates, while others are lower than current targets. Overall we are now seeing an increase in coverage rates for first and second doses in the north. The SHA and our partners work with community leaders to help identify barriers and answer questions regarding vaccine safety and efficacy.

“The reasons for lower uptake can also be different based on challenges of access and ability for individuals to attend clinics. This is why initiatives such as door-to-door campaigns can be an effective way to both improve access to the vaccine, and provide an opportunity to answer questions about the vaccines and why vaccination is important for protecting themselves, their family and their community.

“The ability of health care workers to provide this information in an environment that is more private, and in a language that people prefer, can really make a difference.”

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