A First Nation on Vancouver Island has placed its community on lockdown after discovering a cluster of COVID-19 infections.
The Snuneymuxw First Nation, located in the mid-island near Nanaimo, announced the cluster and the lockdown on New Year's Day, after a single case was detected in the community in late December.
In an update on Saturday, Chief Mike Wyse said a total of seven people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the Snuneymuxw community.
The nation has issued a shelter-in-place order, which is scheduled to be effective until Jan. 15 at 9 p.m.
Until that time, all residents of the nation are required to stay home and only permitted to leave to meet essential needs, according to Wyse. Such needs include shopping for groceries, accessing health care, and going to work.
"Due to the rapid spread of the virus in our community and the high number of people identified as at risk, we are focused to significantly reduce the rate of transmission," Wyse said in his written message. "You can help protect our community by abiding by the order to stay at home."
The nation will have "community security" posted at the entrances to all of its reserves, Wyse said, adding that each reserve will have a single access point, with other entrances closed off by physical barricades.
"Residents will be permitted to leave the reserve for essential needs and only essential service providers will be permitted entry into our reserves," Wyse said. "Those who are not essential service workers or residents will be denied access."
The chief thanked the community for their work to limit transmission of the coronavirus, but added that more work is needed, noting reports that some residents had hosted New Year's Eve parties.
"It is very important that we remember that we are in a pandemic and COVID-19 has hit our community," he said. "These kinds of parties or gatherings seriously increase the risk of transmission for the virus. Please stop all parties and gatherings and remain at home. Do not visit other households. This is for the safety and protection of our entire community."