Esk’etemc First Nation, located 45 minutes south of Williams Lake, B.C., announced a two-week lock-down on March 24, 2020, as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of COVID-19. (Jonathan Hand photo)

First Nations, remote communities need special attention in pandemic, Freeland says

Health-care workers, seniors, Indigenous Peoples some of people most at risk, health officials say

Officials across Canada took further steps to help the country’s most vulnerable people as signs emerged that COVID-19 will continue to affect daily life for months.

School shutdowns were extended in three provinces and city-led events in Toronto were banned through June 30, and most Canadians will be looking at restrictions throughout the spring and even summer.

Health-care workers, seniors, Indigenous Peoples and Canadians involved in the correctional system were all singled out as groups facing higher risk of severe impacts from the novel coronavirus.

“Of greatest concern at the moment relates to the introduction and spread of the virus in enclosed settings where vulnerable people reside,” said the country’s top doctor, Dr. Theresa Tam. “We currently have a number of ongoing outbreaks in long-term care homes, cases in First Nations and Inuit communities, and in corrections facilities.”

COVID-19 has been detected in nearly two dozen of Ontario’s nursing homes to date, including Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., where 12 residents and the spouse of another have died. At least two dozen employees have also tested positive.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland flagged another outbreak among health-care workers who live in Ontario but work in the United States.

ALSO READ: Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Cries for help also came from Canada’s correctional system, with guards at one Ontario jail refusing to work one of their scheduled shifts due to what they describe as a lack of screening.

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