Saskatchewan Examiner

New cases of COVID-19 are exploding in Indigenous communities across Canada

In Indigenous communities across Canada, the number of new COVID-19 cases is surging

Key takeaways:

  • There are 148 omicron cases in Eastern Canadian First Nations communities and 76 cases in Western Canadian First Nations communities.
  • Just before the Christmas holidays, Indigenous communities across Canada were spared the ravages of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.

Indigenous communities throughout Canada had been spared the ravages of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus just before the Christmas holidays, with fewer than 1,000 cases across the country — but that situation has now reversed, and the case numbers have exploded.

There are 1,559 new active cases in First Nations communities across Canada right now, down from 888 on December 23, but the death toll has unfortunately risen again over the holidays.

The virus and its complications have claimed the lives of five more people. 564 people have died due to the pandemic since it began, up from 559 last week.

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Because of the fears surrounding the Omicron and Delta variants of the virus, the statistics remain concerning as the virus spreads among First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities. Fears about the Omicron variant, spreading quickly in communities from coast to coast, have prompted many provinces to enact new health and public safety restrictions to stem the virus’s spread.

Indigenous Services Canada said the numbers were broken down by variant: 3,144 alpha cases, 16 beta cases, 162 gamma cases, 8,222 delta cases, 2,100 indeterminate cases, and 224 omicron cases.

There are 148 omicron cases in Eastern Canadian First Nations communities and 76 cases in Western Canadian First Nations communities. In total, 24 First Nations communities have been found to have Omicron.

According to Indigenous Services Canada, the rate of reported active COVID-19 cases in on-reserve First Nations people has been declining since mid-January 2021, reaching a low of 84.2 cases per 100,000 in the first week of August. Since then, it has begun to rise once more, and it now stands at 198.9 per 100,000, or two times the rate in the general Canadian population.

In Indigenous communities across Canada, the number of new COVID-19 cases is surging
In Indigenous communities across Canada, the number of new COVID-19 cases is surging. Image from NPR

However, there is some good news: the COVID-19 case fatality rate among First Nations people living on reserves is 69 percent lower than the general Canadian population, and 97 percent of people tested positive for COVID-19 in Indigenous communities in Canada have recovered.

Alberta’s alarming trend continued this week, with a total of 14,538 new COVID-19 cases reported. Last summer, Alberta became the first province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 restrictions from public life.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan have been hard hit, with Saskatchewan’s caseload rising to 13,828 new cases. Manitoba also saw increased active COVID-19 cases, with 12,224 cases, up from 12,224 on December 23.

Quebec has over 1,000 active cases in Indigenous communities, up nearly 400 from the previous week.

With the cold weather approaching, officials are urging those who have not yet been vaccinated to get the vaccine and booster shots to help prevent the virus from spreading further. When social distance cannot be maintained, hand-washing, social distancing, and wearing masks are all essential.

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