Program to reduce spread of COVID-19 in crowded homes expanded to all Alberta communities

·2 min read

In a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among people living in crowded houses, the Alberta government has expanded a program that offers hotel rooms and culturally appropriate meals for people who need to self-isolate.

The COVID-19 support program was originally announced in December for people living in Edmonton and Calgary. On Monday, the government announced the program would be expanded to include the entire province.

"This program came about as a result of community organizations within Calgary and Edmonton, initially, coming to government and saying we all know which neighbourhoods the COVID spread has been higher, and there's a reason for that," said Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver.

"It's because people are in living situations where they are not able to self-isolate, sometimes due to the number of people living in a household, sometimes multi-generational households."

This is particularly relevant in First Nations communities, who have had it "especially rough lately" when it comes to COVID-19, said Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson.

"Living conditions are sometimes strained," he said. "You have multi-generational families living together, and so it's hard to isolate. So this program is really going to allow them to still be able to have that support and take their family members that are suffering from COVID and isolate them from the rest of the family."

For individuals who need to self-isolate, the program provides up to 14 days in a hotel, with culturally appropriate food as well as temporary financial aid of $625 when they have completed their isolation period in a hotel.

McIver said 850 Albertans have taken advantage of the program since it was introduced in December.

Alberta has had 5,048 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on First Nations reserves as of Jan. 29, according to Indigenous Services Canada.

Ivan Sawan, chief of the Loon River First Nation, about 400 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, said there are households in his community with 10 to 15 people living together.

"That's been the primary reason why the spike of COVID-19 within First Nations communities … trying to keep our people safe from COVID-19 has been a challenge itself," he said.

"It's going to alleviate some of the pressures, that our people are able to isolate in a hotel."

Reserves across Canada have had 16,376 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. More than 13,300 people have recovered and 157 have died, according to Indigenous Services Canada.

As of Jan. 19, the rate of reported cases of COVID-19 in First Nations people living on reserve was 40 per cent higher than the rate in the general Canadian population.