(Facebook/Snuneymuxw First Nation)

A First Nation on Vancouver Island says that five more cases of COVID-19 have been linked to a cluster that was first announced in the area on Jan. 1.

A total of 12 people have now tested positive for the virus at Snuneymuxw First Nation, located in the mid-island near Nanaimo.

After the first cluster of cases was announced on New Year’s Day, the Nation issued a shelter-in-place order for all of its residents until Jan. 15.

In an update Sunday, Snuneymuxw Chief Mike Wyse said that everyone who tested positive for the virus is currently in isolation. Island Health staff and members of the Nation are also providing support to any affected families, said Wyse.

“The rate of transmission in our community is rising and we all need to help flatten the curve,” said Wyse on Sunday.

“Now more than ever, it is extremely important everyone in our community abide by the shelter-in-place order and community security procedures,” he said.

Some health measures put in place during the two-week shelter-in-place order include suspending in-person school and closing Nation borders to all non-essential travel.

Wyse continues to ask that all residents and visitors refrain from travelling in and out of the Nation until the health order is lifted.

“Last night (Saturday) was the first night for the checkpoints and I want to thank you all for following these security procedures,” he said. “However, it is reported that some of these checkpoints were challenged by people trying to enter or exit the reserve. Please be mindful that we are at the beginning stages for the virus spreading in our community.”

On Sunday, Wyse announced that the Snuneymuxw First Nation was trying to organize greater COVID-19 support from the B.C. government.

The Nation has asked provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to allow residents to have expediated access to vaccines amid the outbreak, and Nation leadership are working to establish a mobile COVID-19 testing site in the community.

“Please be safe, reach out to our Nation at any time, and be kind to one another,” said Wyse.