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.
- Confirmed cases of COVID-19
- How to protect your health and your community
- Mental health and wellness
- Safe return to school
- What we are doing
- Indigenous awareness resources
- Support for Indigenous
- How we have prepared
- Who to contact
- Examples of how COVID-19 supports can help Indigenous individuals
Confirmed cases of COVID-19
On First Nations reserves, as of October 16, ISC is aware of:
- 968 confirmed positive COVID-19
- 242 active cases
- 68 hospitalizations
- 713 recovered cases
- 13 deaths
Case numbers per region:
- British Columbia: 173
- Alberta: 349
- Saskatchewan: 156
- Manitoba: 103
- Ontario: 124
- Quebec: 63
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:
- The percentage of First Nations individuals living on reserve reported positive for COVID-19 is currently one-third the rate of the general Canadian population
- The COVID-19 case fatality rate for First Nations individuals living on reserve is about one-third that of the case fatality rate in the general Canadian population
- More than 75% of those testing positive in First Nations communities for COVID-19 have recovered
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
- Check your symptoms. Symptoms of coronavirus may include: fever, cough, and difficulty breathing
- Check your risk of getting coronavirus
- 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
- 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
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.
- COVID-19 guidance for schools Kindergarten to Grade 12
- Safe return to class funding: $112 million to support a safe return to First Nations schools on reserves
What we are doing
As of October 16, ISC has shipped 1,251 orders for PPE, including:
- hand sanitizers
- N95 masks
- isolation shields
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:
- distributed more than 230,000 swab samples for COVID-19 testing at First Nations nursing stations and health centres and processed 48,554 swab tests since April 1, 2020
- deployed over 600 health care workers to support First Nations communities
- funded 163 mobile structures to support the surge infrastructure needs of communities for treatment, self-isolation testing or screening
- answered 15,864 calls and online chats, including 1,121 directly related to COVID-19, through the Hope for Wellness Help Line between March and August 2020
- committed over $2.2 billion in specific support to Indigenous and northern communities and organizations
For more information:
Support for Indigenous
- Support for individuals: direct support through Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan
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
- Non-insured health benefits: some temporary changes to make it easier to renew prescription and get respiratory equipment
- Jordan's Principle
- Supporting Inuit children
- Child and family services: First Nations youth who reach age of majority during the outbreak, continue to receive supports
- Family violence prevention program: $10 million more for shelters
- Canada Emergency Student Benefit
- Support for students: direct support through Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan
- Post-secondary education: $75.2 million more to support First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation students
- First Nations and Inuit Youth Employment Strategy: extended support for student work terms
Organizations and communities
- Mental wellness funding and support for Indigenous peoples
- Indigenous Community Support Fund: additional $305 million announced on August 12 for a total of $685 million
- Canada Healthy Communities Initiative: new funding to create safe and vibrant public spaces, improve mobility options and apply digital solutions
- Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority managing COVID-19
- Interest payment relief for First Nations through the First Nations Finance Authority
- New funding for health, economic, and social support: $650 million for COVID-19 health response, income support and shelters for Indigenous peoples and communities
- Call for proposals: Urban and off-reserve Indigenous organizations and communities
Continuing essential services
Other COVID-19 related changes
- Indian status: offices closed, apply by mail, expired cards are still valid
- Reaching home: additional support to those experiencing homelessness
- Leadership selection in First Nations: elections can be postponed
- Annual treaty payments: events postponed but payments available by mail
- Ministerial Loan Guarantees: payment deferrals
- Northern physical distancing initiative: support for Indigenous families choosing to be on the land
- Accessing additional public health support for First Nations and Inuit communities during COVID-19
- Protecting the health and safety of Indigenous Communities in close proximity to natural resource operations: Guidance for Indigenous communities
- COVID-19 guidance for long term care homes facilities and nursing homes in Indigenous communities
- Emergency response process during the COVID-19 pandemic
We will continue to receive feedback, provide guidance and information and support communities.
- Relief measures for Indigenous businesses
- Indigenous Community Business Fund
- Indigenous Tourism Stimulus Development Fund
- Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy: eligibility extended to include Indigenous government-owned corporations that are carrying on a business, as well as partnerships where the partners are Indigenous governments and eligible employers
- Support for businesses: access to other direct support through Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan
- Business support finder: access all programs your business might be eligible for in Canada including provincial programs
How we have prepared
Since 2014, ISC has been:
- training healthcare providers in the use of PPE required to provide safe care in any public health risk situation
- actively supporting First Nations communities 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.
ISC has also prepared and shared:
- public service announcements about COVID-19 for radio broadcast in 20 Indigenous languages
- ISC's preparedness and response to COVID-19
- COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan in First Nations Communities (Executive summary)
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:
- so that health and infrastructure professionals can serve fly-in First Nations communities south of 60
- to provide medical supplies
- to provide equipment required to maintain critical infrastructure such as water treatment plants
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
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.