Pine Creek First Nation issues community-wide lockdown as coronavirus variant cases rise

A western Manitoba First Nation is fully locking down on Saturday evening, after a rise in COVID-19 cases in the community.

Pine Creek First Nation is setting up checkpoints on each road into the community, about 325 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, due to the increase in COVID-19 cases — particularly those linked to the B117 coronavirus variant of concern.

The lockdown will remain in effect until June 7, according to a community notice issued on Friday.

At that point, the community had 31 active cases of COVID-19, including 16 caused by variants of concern, nearly doubling the figures from the previous week. There are 19 homes currently in isolation in Pine Creek.

That’s partly because people aren’t listening to the restrictions, Chief Karen Batson said.

“They’re still visiting and stuff like that, and the variants can be passed along quite quickly and the cases can rise very quickly as well,” she said.

The community notice says First Nations safety officers will be enforcing provincial public health orders, especially those banning indoor and outdoor gatherings with anyone except household members.

Community members will be able to go shopping and pick up mail, the notice says.

Pine Creek’s gas bar is limiting its hours and will only serve one resident at a time from a side window.

Anyone who has a medical appointment will need a confirmation slip before they’ll be allowed past the checkstops.

This full lockdown comes after the First Nation instituted a partial one less than a week ago, closing its band office, health centre, Jordan’s Principle office and daycare.

Batson says it’s a difficult decision to lock down, but it’s important given how many cases of the variant are in the small First Nation.

“We just want to safeguard the health and safety of all community members.”

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