Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is warning that cases of COVID-19 are on the rise as the second wave of the pandemic hits.
Marc Miller is also warning that now is not the time for communities to ease restrictions and efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
The areas of most concern at the moment to ISC are Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.
“Given what we have seen in the last two weeks, there is little doubt that the second wave of COVID will hit Indigenous peoples harder than the first wave,” said Miller at a news conference Thursday.
Miller said First Nations communities have made sacrifices and done a great job so far. He credits that to good leadership and said his numbers show that it’s beneficial when the governments trust Indigenous communities to do what’s best for them.
According to Miller, the infection rate has been one third that of non-Indigenous communities and he says testing and tracing are key to stamping out COVID.
According to ISC there are 768 confirmed cases and they have been on the rise since August with now 123 active cases in First Nations communities.
Miller said after many months of staying home, some may be experiencing pandemic fatigue and this can result in lax vigilance when it comes to important precautionary practices.
ISC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tim Wong echoed Millers concerns and said no one in the country is safe form the virus.
“We have to remember that this virus is very clever, it attacks all communities it finds a place to get into communities,” Wong warned. “If we don’t take it seriously this virus will run ahead of us but we want to run ahead of the virus.”
Another item of concern for ISC is the upcoming flu season and the fact that the uptake for the flu vaccine is lower among Indigenous people. Miller said it’s important to reduce the spread of seasonal flu using the same practices used to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Miller said ISC stands ready and in communication with Indigenous leadership to provide additional support to communities if needed. Limiting non-essential trips or maintaining physical distancing from those outside social bubbles remains an important practice.
“While these changes are hard, we must continue to listen to the advice of our health experts,” Miller explained.
Miller’s advice to Indigenous communities is to re-double their efforts and in foresight of a second wave, to continue their measures that are saving lives.
Nunavut is still the only jurisdiction in Canada without a confirmed case in any of its communities.