$61M coming to help Manitoba First Nations fight COVID-19: Indigenous services minister

Indigenous communities in Manitoba will get an immediate boost in funding to help battle COVID-19 both on- and off-reserve after an “alarming rise” in COVID-19 cases in the province.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said $61.4 million in additional funding will flow to the province.

“In light of the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, Indigenous Services Canada, in partnership with Manitoba First Nations, is immediately providing $61.4 million in additional surge capacity funding to fight the virus in a number of key areas,” Miller said in a series of tweets Monday.

As of Monday, Manitoba First Nations had nearly 963 active cases of COVID-19, both on and off-reserve, with 50 people in hospital, 11 in intensive care and 11 deaths recorded, according to the  Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Rapid Response Team.

The on-reserve test positivity was 15 per cent — higher than the provincial average as of Tuesday, which was 10.6 per cent.

A large chunk of the money Miller announced — $38 million — will go toward helping communities with their pandemic plan. Another $3 million will be targeted for personal care homes to hire additional staff and for greater infection prevention, and $8 million will help pay for on-reserve security, food and supplies. 

Miller also said Indigenous Services will provide additional help with contact tracing, mobile medical infrastructure, supplies, and medical staff. The department will also work with National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg and provincial health authorities to increase testing capacity and response time.

The federal government will also work with the First Nations response team to identify organizations that provide services to off-reserve members, especially in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson.