Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Indigenous communities

The Government of Canada supports First Nations and Inuit communities in preparing for, monitoring and responding to COVID-19.

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Confirmed cases of COVID-19

On First Nations reserves, as of October 16, ISC is aware of:

Case numbers per region:

Provincial chief public health officers work with ISC's regional medical officers and nurses to provide medical support as needed when a positive case is reported.

As of September 30:

For more details on case numbers in First Nations communities, visit:

For the total number of confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 across Canada, visit:

For the case notification process:

How to protect your health and your community

How to avoid infection

PHAC has the most up-to-date recommendations and awareness resources:

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 handwashing bowl after each individual use.

Coronavirus is not known to spread through water.

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

  1. Check your symptoms. Symptoms of coronavirus may include: fever, cough, and difficulty breathing
  2. Check your risk of getting coronavirus
  3. Isolate yourself at home for 14 days to avoid spreading it to others
    • If you live with others, stay in a separate room or keep a 2-metre distance
  4. Avoid individuals with chronic conditions, compromised immune systems and older adults
  5. Call your local health facility. Tell them your symptoms and your exposure. They will provide advice on next steps


Testing for COVID-19 helps protect Elders and communities. It is the only way to confirm if someone currently has COVID-19, and it is an important tool to stop the spread of the virus and prevent community outbreaks.

Stigma and discrimination are barriers that can prevent people from getting tested or accessing treatment for COVID-19.

Consult COVID-19: Testing and reducing stigma.

Getting tested will not put your personal health information at risk. Your identity, health status and other personal information is only shared with health care providers as required.

Personal protective equipment

ISC maintains a stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizers in the event of a health emergency in First Nations on-reserve communities.

This stockpile is accessible:

  • in cases where other sources of PPE are unavailable
  • to ensure the safety of healthcare workers and others supporting delivery of health services

The stockpile is not intended for:

  • routine use in patient care
  • distribution to individual members in communities who are not sick with COVID-19 or taking care of a sick family member

How to access the equipment

First Nations should contact their regional office if their usual supplier is unable to process their PPE requests. First Nations in Yukon and the Northwest Territories should contact their regional office if territorial governments are unable to process their PPE requests. Regional offices work with ISC's national office on equipment requests for health care purposes.

Inuit and Métis communities should contact the ISC regional offices or Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada if a province or territory is unable to process their PPE requests.

ISC is processing PPE requests with quick turnaround to ensure First Nations on-reserve communities are ready to respond to COVID-19 as effectively as possible.

Mental health and wellness

Mental health counselling continues to be available. Visit:

Safe return to school

ISC continues to work with partners to address challenges related to the re-opening of schools and how to best respond to the pressures they face. We support educational, health and other measures for children, such as procuring non-medical face masks, acrylic sheets (plexiglass) retrofits and hand sanitizing stations for schools in First Nations communities. The Government of Canada is committed to supporting a safe return to school, while recognizing First Nations will make decisions about their own schools reopening based on what they feel is safest for students and their families.

What we are doing

As of October 16, ISC has shipped 1,251 orders for PPE, including:

to First Nations communities, with 32 orders in progress.

As of the end of September, some examples of what ISC has done in partnership with communities include:

For more information:

Support for Indigenous



If your CERB benefits have ended and you have not yet transitioned to the new EI programs, please contact your band administrator about other possible support including the On-reserve Income Assistance program.

Continuing essential services



Organizations and communities


Continuing essential services

  • Primary health care and health protection services
  • Emergency management measures including for floods and fires
  • Management of health facilities
  • Funding for community services such as income assistance
  • Any operations required to maintain safety at any environmental remediation site

Other COVID-19 related changes


We will continue to receive feedback, provide guidance and information and support communities.




How we have prepared

Since 2014, ISC has been:

ISC has contacted regions to review the processes in place in order to refill and restock PPE as required.

ISC has also prepared and shared:

ISC works closely with PHAC, 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, communicable disease nurses, environmental public health officers and medical officers advises and supports First Nation communities and leads on public health emergency preparedness and response south of 60. ISC funds or directly employs public health, home care and primary care nurses across many First Nation communities.

As of April 22, ISC has organized charter flights:

Feature story: Charter flights to fly-in First Nations communities in provinces during COVID-19

North of 60, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada is working with Transport Canada and territorial governments to ensure continuity of routes for goods and essential services.

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.

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

British Columbia
First Nations Health Authority

Dr. Wadieh Yacoub, Indigenous Services Canada

Dr. Ibrahim Khan, Indigenous Services Canada

Northern Inter Tribal Health Authority
Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka

Dr. Michael Routledge, Indigenous Services Canada

Dr. Maurica Maher, Indigenous Services Canada

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.

Related links

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