Rangers dispatched to Nunavik to prevent COVID-19 spread, Trudeau says
Nunavik on 'lockdown', travel between communities and to southern cities will be prohibited
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday the Canadian Armed Forces will assist in northern Quebec to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in isolated communities.
"I can confirm that the Canadian Armed Forces will be there for Quebec, and for all Canadians," he said.
Trudeau said the move was made following a request from the Quebec government.
A local organization, the Nunavik-Regional Emergency Preparedness Advisory Committee, requested that the Rangers be dispatched, according to Kativik Regional Government director of communications Rhéal Séguin.
In an email, Séguin said the Rangers will help set up tents and other medical equipment, as required by the communities.
The Rangers are part of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve, and provide a Canadian Armed Forces presence in northern and isolated communities.
Randy Jones, prefect for the Golfe du St-Laurent administrative region on the Lower North Shore, said he also made a request to activate the Rangers on the Lower North Shore.
Nunavik under 'lockdown' as of Friday
All 14 communities of the Nunavik region of northern Quebec are under "lockdown" effective April 3, according to a news release from the Kativik Regional Government and the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services.
Under the lockdown, no passenger flights will be allowed to any of the 14 communities, and all regular flights are cancelled.
"This decision was not taken lightly. We strongly believe it is the best way to reduce the risk of community transmission," Dr. Marie Rochette, the board's director of public health, said in the release.
"Collectively, we have to work together to protect elders and the more vulnerable members of all the communities."
The lockdown follows a mandatory curfew imposed across Nunavik on March 29 after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was identified in Salluit. The region confirmed its second case on Wednesday.
Under the new rules, the only flights permitted to Nunavik communities are chartered flights carrying cargo, patients travelling for medical appointments, or health professionals and other critical workers.
"Patients travelling for medical appointments, either to Kuujjuaq, Puvirnituq or Montreal, will have to travel alone, without an escort, unless the patient is a minor," the release reads.
"Upon returning to the region, everyone will have to self-isolate for 14 days, by staying home, in their room as much as possible."
Quebec Premier François Legault said the Rangers are already present in the communities, so there are no concerns they will bring the virus to the region.
"Right now those people don't have any symptoms, and they're already there, so we think it makes sense to use them," he said.