?Esdilagh to impose lockdown as COVID-19 cases increase in neighbouring communities

·2 min read

?Esdilagh First Nation is preparing to lockdown its community as multiple COVID-19 cases have been confirmed by Williams Lake First Nation and Canim Lake Band.

Chief Troy Baptiste said a lockdown will take effect Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 9 a.m.

“Last year, it was in China, and you think it’s a long ways away, but now it’s right next door,” he said of the novel coronavirus.

Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) remains on high alert after Chief Willie Sellars confirmed 12 positive COVID-19 cases at the community of Sugar Cane on Sunday, Jan. 10.

Although no new additional cases were reported the following day by WLFN, acting emergency operations centre director Aaron Mannella said further cases are anticipated over the coming days. Some 25 WLFN members were tested Jan. 10 and another 39 on Jan. 11.

Band administration buildings at Xat’sull First Nation, 35 kilometres north of Williams Lake, will remain closed to the public until at least Jan. 18 after a member tested positive for the highly-contagious disease in late December.

A COVID-19 outbreak was declared Jan. 11 at Canim Lake, located more than 150 kilometres from ?Esdilagh. Canim Lake Band near 100 Mile House remains in lockdown with 45 positive cases identified as of Jan. 12.

Also expressing concern with increasing numbers of positive COVID-19 cases in neighbouring communities is Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (SXFN), located approximately 85 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake. Checkpoints have been extended there to 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

SXFN chief and council announced Jan. 11 they would be moving into phase five. This means a shelter-in-place order until Jan. 25 for the more than 100 SXFN community members who will have to obtain a pass, which has to be handed in upon returning from essential travel for groceries and medical reasons.

Visitors are also prohibited from entering SXFN.

Anyone requiring entry to ? Esdilagh will have to obtain written permission from chief and council, Baptiste said.

“Next thing that could be us on the news and we’re trying to prevent that, so this is the precautions we’re taking and hopefully we stay safe in this,” he said of COVID-19 within Indigenous communities.

“I can’t wait until we all get back to normal, and I will roll up my sleeve and take that vaccine because it’s something that worries me.”

Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune