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Canada/Canadian-Media: The rising curve of COVID-19 outbreaks in people of First Nations in Western Canada, contributing up to half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces, alarmed the Canadian federal officials.
Marc Miller. Image credit: Twitter handle
The federal officials urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa yesterday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines.
"So what we're saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. "This is not the time to ease public health restrictions."
5,571 active cases on reserves, most of them in Prairie provinces, were reported by Indigenous Services Canada as of Jan. 19, 3,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March, and more than 90 per cent are in Western Canada:
"We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor," said The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19 and is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments.
"When you're on alcohol, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check."
First Nation leaders and health experts said that overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions are some of the causes for the rising curve.
"I always worry about our elders," said Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer for the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia. "Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that," CBC New reported.