COVID-19 new case numbers explode in Indigenous communities across Canada

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

There are 1,559 new active cases currently ongoing in First Nations communities across Canada, down from 888 on December 23, while the death toll sadly climbed again over the holidays.

Five more deaths were also added to the toll of lives lost to the virus and its complications. The death toll rose again to 564 lives lost to the virus since the pandemic began, up from last week’s 559.

The statistics remain a concern as the virus takes hold in First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities, thanks to the fears surrounding the Omicron and Delta variants of the virus. Many provinces have enacted new health and public safety restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, largely spurred by the fears about the Omicron variant, which is spreading quickly in communities from coast to coast to coast.

In a statement, Indigenous Services Canada broke down the numbers by variant — 3,144 alpha cases, 16 beta cases, 162 gamma cases, 8,222 delta cases, 2,100 indeterminate and 224 omicron cases.

148 omicron cases are in First Nations communities in Eastern Canada and 76 cases are in First Nations communities in Western Canada. Omicron has been detected in a total of 24 First Nations communities.

Indigenous Services Canada reports the rate of reported active cases of COVID-19 in First Nations people living on-reserve was going down since mid-January 2021 and reached its lowest point during the first week of August at 84.2 cases per 100,000. Since then, it started to rise again and is currently 198.9 per 100,000 or 2 times the respective rate in the general Canadian population.

There is some positive news, however – the COVID-19 case fatality rate among First Nations people living on a reserve is 69 percent of the case fatality rate in the general Canadian population, and 97 percent of people living in Indigenous communities in Canada who tested positive for COVID-19 have recovered.

Alberta continued its disturbing trend as cases in that province continued to rise, climbing again to 14,538 new COVID-19 cases this week. Alberta was the first province in Canada to remove all COVID-19 restrictions from public life last summer.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan have also been hit hard, with Saskatchewan’s caseload climbing slightly again to 13,828 new cases. Manitoba also saw an increase in active cases of COVID-19 with 12,224, up again from December 23.

Quebec boasts over 1,000 active cases in Indigenous communities, coming in at 1,640, up almost 400 from last week.

With the cold weather moving in quickly, officials are encouraging those as-yet-unvaccinated individuals to get the vaccine, booster shots and to help curb the continued spread of the virus. Hand-washing, social distancing and wearing masks are all paramount when social distance can’t be maintained.

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