Case numbers are stabilizing in Quebec and Ontario. Even so, jurisdictions need to find slow and responsible ways to ease restrictions. In Eeyou Istchee, we need to continue to respect restrictions to protect our communities from COVID-19
The Cree Health Board and Cree leadership are monitoring new variants of the coronavirus. In Abitibi-Temiscamingue, there several new cases of the South African variant virus.
I would like to explain a bit more about variants of the corona virus.
When the virus reproduces, this can change its structure and create a variant.
Virus variants act differently when they move between people.
Some variants are more contagious and spread faster.
This means a variant can infect more people. This is why they are a concern.
It’s important to remember that variants cause the same symptoms and same disease in people. In countries where variants have been present for months, they have become the main strain of COVID-19.
In Quebec, health authorities expect variants to be the dominant strain of COVID-19 infections by the end of March or beginning of April.
This is why Quebec is being very cautious about loosening restrictions. And this is why we must continue to be careful in Eeyou Istchee, and move slowly.
Restriction on travel between communities will last a while longer to maintain protection. Non- essential travel between communities is subject to mandatory 14 days of self-isolation.
The exception is for residents of a community returning home, or children under 18 travelling to their parent.
Cree leadership and the Cree Health Board are working to develop procedures to allow our people to start traveling between communities during Goose Break.
Ouje-Bougoumou is still in Phase 2, which means:
Outdoor gatherings are limited to 2 households at most.
Indoor gatherings are allowed with the same 2 households at all times (your bubble). Mistissini will be moving to Phase 3 on Saturday. Waswanipi, Nemaska, Waskaganish, Eastmain, Wemindji, Chisasibi, Whapmagoostui are in Phase 3. In Phase 3:
Outdoor gatherings of 75 people, or 10 households are allowed.
Indoor gatherings of 25 or 3 households are allowed.
Gathering safely protects everyone. It’s important for people to continue with precautionary measures including physical distancing from people they don’t live with, wear a mask when needed that covers your nose and mouth, and wash your hands frequently.
People can travel to Region 10 (Chibougamau, Chapais, Lebel sur Quevillon, Radisson) without having to isolate for 14 days. Travel to Region 17 (Nunavik) does not require mandatory self-isolation.
All other regions in Quebec, and Ontario are still considered Areas of Risk. People who are travelling from these regions will have to self-isolate for 14 days when they return to Eeyou Istchee. This includes Gatineau, even though it is now an “Orange Zone”.
Visiting other people in their homes is not allowed right now in Areas of Risk, whether it’s a Red zone or Orange zone. This means that people are not allowed to go for visits in homes in communities like Val-d’Or, Gatineau, Chibougamau, Chapais, Lebel-sur-Quevillon.
There are curfews in place in red and orange zones. If people do have to travel outside Eeyou Istchee they should check the restrictions at their destination.
For more information about Areas of Risk, people can visit the Cree Nation Government website.
Since the start of our vaccination campaign: 9,681 people have been vaccinated in Eeyou Istchee. This represents about 72 per cent coverage of our eligible population.
There are still first doses of the Moderna vaccine available in each community. We encourage people who haven’t taken the vaccine to consider it. The vaccine is an extra layer of protection.
In some cases when there’s a risk of wasting doses, people who have received a 1st shot may be called for a second shot. This is done in priority for Elders.
The Cree Health Board is waiting for a shipment of 2nd doses for all people. The province of Quebec has told us that the 2nd doses will be delivered to Eeyou Istchee in April.
The Cree Health Board is finalizing Re-entry vaccination program. This program will make it possible for Crees living outside our territory to get vaccinated where they are.
This will include post-secondary students, Crees in Southern Quebec, and Wiichihiituwin long- term patients and escorts at Espresso. More details will be available in coming days.