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Military to support Shamattawa, Man., as COVID-19 cases climb

The Canadian Armed Forces says it will be on hand to support the Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba as COVID-19 cases skyrocket, the federal minister of Indigenous services confirmed in a tweet Saturday.

The chief of the fly-in community, located about 745 kilometres north of Winnipeg northeast of Thompson, Man., has been calling for military aid this entire week.

“I spoke to Chief [Eric] Redhead yesterday about how Canada can continue to assist Shamattawa First Nation with their COVID-19 efforts, particularly in light of the alarming number of cases,” Marc Miller said in the tweet.

“Very glad to confirm the support of the Canadian Armed Forces.”

On Friday, Redhead said 133 people are positive for the illness, and the community had a 68 per cent test positivity rate. About 1,300 people live in the community.

“We’re stretched more than thin,” said Redhead earlier this week. “We’re literally at the breaking point right now.”

The number of cases in his community keeps growing, despite efforts such as imposing a curfew, a mask mandate, closing the band office and school, and urging people to stay home.

The school gym is being used as an isolation unit for people who test positive. About 24 people can stay there and it is currently at capacity, Redhead has said. Nearly 40 people have now been moved out of the community so they can properly self-isolate, but Redhead says the facilities outside the First Nation are nearing their limits too.

National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan also tweeted on Saturday to confirm the military’s deployment.

“The @CanadianForces will always be there to help in times of need,” he wrote.

CBC News has reached out to the federal government and the First Nation for more information.

WATCH | Shamattawa asks for military assistance as COVID-19 cases surge

The chief of Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba is renewing calls for military aid in his community as the number of people infected with COVID-19 continues to grow. 1:52

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