Coronavirus in eastern Canada sees rush to flatten the curve

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ontario has risen to 308, with two identified between Timmins and the Manitoba border.

The Timmins case is a man in his fifties who recently travelled internationally.

Fort Frances confirmed a case last weekend.

But so far, none of the cases are in an Ontario First Nation.

Emergency funds

Meanwhile, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) is helping its member communities access the two emergency funds announced by the federal government this week.

NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler recommended the communities ban all non-essential travel – both by air and ground – as a protective measure.

He also suggested designating police, medical staff and “contractors responsible for maintenance of critical infrastructure” as essential service providers. And, he said anyone coming in and out should be screened.

In Ottawa, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller told APTN News his department is working to rapidly send funds to communities as quickly as possible to help flatten the curve.

“Our action at the government of Canada has been solely focused on ensuring that those funds are deployed so that there’s a maximum amount of flexibility on a distinctions based scenario in communities,” Miller said

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new action in his daily briefing that will allow Canadian businesses to develop solutions and make supplies the country needs.

“This initiative will help companies that are already making things like masks, ventilators and hand sanitizer to massively scale up production<” Trudeau told reporters.

“It will also provide support to those who want to retool their manufacturing facilities to contribute to this fight.”

Massive shutdown

But Trudeau skirted the question of whether the country will undergo a massive shutdown, similar to ones in California and Europe.

“We are looking and at all possible different measures.  As I’ve said repeatedly, nothing is off the table, but we will continue to announce measures as they become necessary.”

The Liberal government’s COVID Committee members were asked why not everyone who shows symptoms is being tested for the virus.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said people who live in certain communities have a more specific need and will be tested.

“Such as people living in the North or people who live in certain First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities where you absolutely want to be certain that they’re not being impacted by the virus or you need to contain it really, really fast,” she said.

Bill Blair, minister for public safety and emergency preparedness, said non-essential travel at the border with the United States would end at midnight Friday for at least 30 days.

But he did acknowledge that “Indigenous communities, which often exist on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border” still had the ability to go back and forth “unimpeded.”

His office didn’t clarify whether the exemption applied to all First Nations people or those whose communities straddle the border.