Schools closed in Manawan, Que., as COVID-19 spreads in rural community

·2 min read

Quebec's Atikamekw community in Manawan, located about 260 kilometres north of Montreal, has closed schools to push back against the rising tide of COVID-19.

Manawan went from two confirmed cases on Sunday to 10 by Thursday evening. One patient was taken to hospital in Joliette as a preventive measure.

"At the moment, I'm not worried, but I'm waiting for the results of those who were tested yesterday," said the Atikamekw Council of Manawan's vice chair, Sipi Flamand.

"Forty-eight hours of waiting is a long time. Considering the overcrowding in the houses, more cases would become worrying."

A walk-in screening clinic has been in place since Tuesday and residents are being encouraged to go get tested and additional public health restrictions have been put in place in an effort to prevent new infections.

For example, the community is closed to visitors and members are not allowed to leave unless there is an emergency. The community is gated and everybody trying to enter or leave will be checked.

All exception requests to have visitors or to leave will be refused, warned the Council of Atikamekw of Manawan in a statement.

The council also put in place a curfew between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. that will go on until Nov. 23.

And the community's two schools, which were to be closed for a week, will be closed for one more week, until Nov. 20.

The possibility of closing schools is something education officials in the area planned for. Some 500 tablets and computers were purchased back in May so the community's 430 primary and 240 secondary students could continue their education at home.

"The students had already lost a lot with the first wave when we closed in March," said Annette Dubé-Vollant, director of educational services.

"We didn't want to relive that. But this is really the first time that we have seen this kind of situation. We are not 100 per cent ready, but we will adjust."

Meanwhile, the council has contacted the province's minister of Indigenous affairs.

The council hopes to have access to the rapid screening tests for COVID-19 that the Quebec government promised to certain indigenous communities, said Flamand.