Island Lake First Nations get rapid COVID-19 tests

The four Island Lake First Nations have added rapid COVID-19 tests to their arsenal in the fight against the illness.

Starting Monday, the First Nations of Garden Hill, Red Sucker Lake, Wasagamack and St. Theresa Point in northeastern Manitoba will have more than 1,000 rapid COVID-19 tests available for essential travellers coming into the communities, the Four Arrows Regional Health Authority announced.

“This is a huge step forward for our membership,” said Dino Flett, chief of Garden Hill First Nation, about 475 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

“Being able to do our own tests quickly means we can slow the spread of COVID, save lives, reduce stress and cut substantial costs to the health-care system,” he said in the Four Arrows news release, which was sent to media Sunday.

Two digital analyzers are also being installed to speed up the turnaround time for test results. The First Nations have trained their own members to use the technology, Chief Flett added.

“Indigenous people know the health-care system isn’t able to respond as quickly as needed,” Four Arrows chairman Elvin Flett said in the news release.

“It is very important that we increase our own capacity to fight COVID wherever possible to improve the health of our people.”

Many remote First Nations in Manitoba have struggled to contain COVID-19 outbreaks, and a ban on non-essential travel into northern Manitoba remains in effect. 

As of Dec. 18, a total of 75 First Nations people in Manitoba had died from COVID-19, and there were 1,192 active cases on First Nations reserves, according to the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba.

Last week, the Canadian military sent 35 members to Red Sucker Lake, where more than two dozen people have tested positive. 

The rapid tests were made available through a partnership with Indigenous Canadian Medical Dispensaries, an Indigenous-owned company that works to improve health services for Indigenous people in Canada. 

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