Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Indigenous communities
The Government of Canada supports First Nations and Inuit communities in preparing for, monitoring and responding to communicable disease emergencies, including pandemic influenza and other emerging infectious diseases, such as the new coronavirus called COVID-19.
Visit the Government of Canada's Outbreak update for more detailed information about symptoms, treatment, prevention and risks.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 18, 2020, the Government of Canada announced the Indigenous Community Support Fund as part of the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.
- How to avoid infection
- Handwashing and drinking water advisories
- How to prepare
- What to do if you are sick
- How we have prepared
- How Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) protects against public health threats
- How the Government of Canada is supporting Indigenous communities
- Who to contact for more information and help
How to avoid infection
The Public Health Agency of Canada has the most up-to-date recommendations which can be found at: Preventing coronavirus
Handwashing and drinking water advisories
If your community is on a boil water advisory or do not consume advisory you should still use your water to wash your hands with soap and water and for personal hygiene. Infants and toddlers should be sponge bathed in order to avoid accidentally swallowing the water.
If you are on a do not use advisory, your water is not safe for any use. Use bottled water with soap or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to wash your hands.
If you do not have access to running water, wash your hands in a large bowl and then throw out the water from the hand washing bowl after each individual use.
How to prepare
The Public Health Agency of Canada has the most up-to-date recommendations for remote and isolated communities which can be found at: Being prepared
What to do if you are sick
- Check your symptoms. Symptoms of coronavirus may include: fever, cough, and difficulty breathing
- Check your risk of getting coronavirus
- Limit contact with others and avoid situations such as social gatherings, work, school, daycare, health care and seniors residences
- Avoid individuals with chronic conditions, compromised immune systems and older adults
- Call your local health facility. Tell them your symptoms and your exposure. They will provide advice on next steps
How we have prepared
Since 2014, ISC has been:
- training healthcare providers in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) required to provide safe care in any public health risk situation
- actively supporting Indigenous partners to ensure pandemic plans are current and follow best practices
ISC has contacted regions to review the processes in place in order to refill and restock PPE as required. As of March 25, 2020, ISC has shipped or delivered 170 personal protective equipment requests with 32 requests in progress.
ISC has also prepared and shared public service announcements about COVID-19 for radio broadcast in 20 Indigenous languages
How ISC protects against public health threats
ISC works closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada, other Government of Canada departments, and provincial and territorial governments as well as Indigenous partners to protect the health and safety of Indigenous peoples. This includes supporting Indigenous partners in responding to public health threats.
ISC's network of regional health emergency management coordinators, regional communicable disease nurses and regional medical officers advises and supports First Nation communities and leads public health emergency preparedness and responses as needed.
ISC directly employs public health and primary care nurses across many First Nations communities. Environmental public health officers also play an important role in health emergency management.
In the territories, primary health care is the responsibility of the territorial governments. ISC is working closely with First Nations and Inuit partners and territorial governments to prepare for, and respond to COVID-19, and will be available to provide surge capacity support in a timely manner if needed.
When it comes to preparedness and response in Métis communities, the primary guidance and support comes from the provincial government.
How the Government of Canada is supporting Indigenous communities
While provinces and territories are generally responsible for the provision of direct health care services to Canadians, the Government of Canada is ensuring that well-coordinated, effective measures are in place to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.
The Government of Canada has dedicated resources to respond to the urgent public health response including for Inuit communities. Your community does not need to declare a state of emergency in order to access support to control the spread of COVID-19.
We have also developed a guide for First Nations communities accessing support.
We will continue to receive feedback, provide guidance and information and support communities.
Existing services and programs
The Government of Canada is putting the necessary measures in place to ensure continuity of the essential services to Canadians.
While non-essential activities will be reduced, ISC will maintain all essential services, such as:
- primary health care and health protection services
- non-insured health benefits
- emergency management measures
- Jordan's Principle
- Supporting Inuit children
- child and family services
- management of health facilities
- funding for community services such as income assistance
- any operations required to maintain safety at any environmental remediation site
Floods and fires
Emergency situations may be more complex during a pandemic. ISC will continue to support First Nations in responding to natural disasters, such as floods and wildfires.
If there is an emergency situation, Indigenous leaders are encouraged to reach out as soon as possible so that we can work together to update and adjust response plans as needed.
Who to contact for more information and help
Government of Canada: Public Health Agency of Canada COVID-19 information
Toll free: 1-833-784-4397
Regional medical officers
First Nations Health Authority
Dr. Wadieh Yacoub, Indigenous Services Canada
Dr. Ibrahim Khan, Indigenous Services Canada
Northern Inter Tribal Health Authority
Dr. Michael Routledge, Indigenous Services Canada
Dr. Maurica Maher, Indigenous Services Canda
Richard Budgell, Indigenous Services Canada
Dr. Eilish Cleary, Indigenous Services Canada
If you live in the territories, please contact your regional health authorities in the territory where you are located.