More military support on the way to Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba

More help from the Canadian Armed Forces is on the way to Shamattawa following a desperate plea from the First Nation’s chief.

The northern Manitoba fly-in community has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases, with 25 per cent of people living on reserve testing positive for COVID-19, according to Chief Eric Redhead.

Both an Armed Forces spokesperson and Redhead have confirmed to CBC that a plane is on the way to the community now with additional medical and regular Forces members.

It’s not yet clear how many members of the military are being deployed to the community. 

In Manitoba, “the hardest-hit community right now is Shamattawa,” Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, said Friday.

Roussin announced 447 new cases of COVID-19 provincewide Friday, more than 100 of which were from Shamattawa. 

“They’re certainly dealing with a significant outbreak,” he said.

Later on Friday, Shamattawa Chief Eric Redhead said his community had passed its breaking point. He said most pandemic team members had tested positive or were in isolation.

“We need to act now. There’s no more waiting,” he said in an interview with CBC News Network.

The chief, who said the test positivity rate on his reserve is hovering between 70 to 80 per cent, blamed overcrowding in his community for the rapid spread of the illness.

An elder who contracted COVID-19 had to be airlifted to Winnipeg, where she is in intensive care, Redhead said. He said all 15 members of the elder’s crowded home tested positive.

“When you have so many people living in a confined space, it’s prime breeding ground for this virus,” he said.

Redhead said a small military assessment team that was previously sent to the community wasn’t enough support. He repeated a call for an additional 60 to 70 members to help in the COVID-19 response in the community, about 745 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

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