Seven probable cases of U.K. COVID-19 variant found in Manitoba First Nation

WINNIPEG — A Manitoba First Nation has identified seven probable cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 Variant of Concern (VOC), first found in the United Kingdom.

According to a news release from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, an emergency call was held on Saturday with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), Pauingassi Chief Roddy Owens and Little Grand Rapids First Nations Chief Keeper regarding the confirmation of seven probable cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 Variant of Concern within Pauingassi.

The release states several COVID-19 samples from Pauingassi were screened at Cadham Laboratory, which identified the presence of markers that may be of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant.

The samples have now been sent to the National Microbiology Lab for genomic sequencing, which will confirm whether the cases are due to the B.1.1.7 VOC.

“This is clearly a very serious situation that continues to evolve and change,” said Chief Roddy Owens in the news release. “We are working closely with our counterparts to ensure reliable and swift information sharing for our citizens and will continue to work diligently to ensure that we protect our citizens at this time.”

The First Nation Pandemic Response Coordination Team said the identified individuals were previously notified and had been isolating since their initial positive COVID-19 results.

“Aggressive public health actions targeted at identifying any further contacts to these cases and ensuring they are tested and are isolating according to public health requirements will help contain the spread of this possible Variant of Concern,” stated Dr. Marcia Anderson, team lead of the First Nation Pandemic Response Coordination Team. “We will continue to monitor the situation and ensure the safety of all First Nation citizens and work with all First Nations as the situation evolves.”

Pauingassi First Nation has been battling an outbreak of COVID-19 cases for several weeks. The government sent in 18 Canadian Rangers to help the community when about a third of its population tested positive for the virus.

Residents of the First Nation have been required to stay at home except for essential purposes since Feb. 2, 2021.

Pauingassi First Nation sits about 280 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg and has a population of around 500 people.

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