Nfld. & Labrador

In northern Labrador, leaders are limiting access to communities

Up to 10 people can be seen living in a house at once in coastal Labrador communities, such as Nain.

Housing crunch adds to worry over spread of COVID-19

Natuashish Chief John Nui hopes to stop COVID-19 from entering his community by banning access to the town. (Submitted)

Leaders in several isolated Labrador communities are limiting access to their towns as they attempt to stop COVID-19 from entering.

Newfoundland and Labrador has declared the virus a public health emergency with three cases in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region.

Meetings have been held with Indigenous leaders in recent days to discuss ways to keep the virus out of the Indigenous communities.

In Natuashiah, Mushuau Innu First Nation Chief John Nui said it was decided to halt travel in and out of the community.

"It's going to very hard to monitor that way but we hope they respect the decision about people coming in," Nui told Labrador Morning.

"If we know of anybody coming in from outside, we'll kindly ask them to leave."

Nain AngajukKak Joe Dicker says non-essential travel is banned. (Submitted by Elsie Russell)

Nui said the community chartered flights to get people back to their home communities.

The community's health clinic will remain open at all times, he said, but he's asking residents to minimize visits.

"There is concern for our elders and there's a concern for our young kids. We're doing what we can to prevent it from escalating further."

Nui said community members are rallying to ensure low-income families and elders have food. 

Housing crisis

About 80 kilometres away in Nain, similar measures are being taken.

Non-essential travel is banned, according to Nain AngajukKak (or mayor) Joe Dicker.

"We are isolated and small community compared to others in Canada and we have limited access to the resources that might be needed in the event COVID-19 does come to the community," Dicker said.

Nain is facing a well-documented housing crisis, where extended families often live in homes too small to accommodate everyone. Social distancing is a concept not everyone can practise.

Dicker said the only situation similar to what's happening now was a tuberculous outbreak, which was exacerbated by a housing shortage. 

He said there are people expected to return to the community from post-secondary school, and Dicker hopes they adhere to self-isolation. 

Premier Dwight Ball said Wednesday a meeting was recently held to discuss how best to help Indigenous communities.

"The measures that are in place are very similar to what we would see across the rest of Newfoundland and Labrador," Ball said at the daily COVID-19 news conference.

Health Minister John Haggie said the emphasis is on containment and preventing the arrival of the virus.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Labrador Morning