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Regions to avoid around Eeyou Istchee

BY Lachlan Madill Jun 5, 2020

The Quebec government is rolling out its deconfinement plan and Eeyou Istchee will begin easing restrictions in June. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a risk, especially for people travelling outside the territory.

A major part of the plan is the mandatory self-isolation for those who have been in high-risk areas. This includes Montreal, which has more than 25,000 cases and is approaching 3,000 deaths. The other areas of concern are Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean.

Jason Coonishish, the coordinator of Pre-hospital and Emergency Measures with the Cree Health Board, said that people in Eeyou Istchee must remain vigilant when travelling. “For Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, which is Region 2, it’s a concern because they have 320 confirmed cases.”

Coonishish added, “In Abitibi, Region 8, they have 165 confirmed cases and most of them are in Rouyn. We work by region so the whole region is considered a place where if you go and then return, you are going to have to self-isolate.”

Due to the proximity of the two regions to Eeyou Istchee, they are both considered risk areas. There have been 26 deaths in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region since the pandemic started. 

While there have not been any new cases as of May 26 being reported in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Rouyn-Noranda still has the highest concentration with 125 confirmed cases. Témiscamingue has 17, Abitibi-West 10, and Abitibi and Gold Valley both have five. Health authorities in the region also report that 27 health-sector workers have been diagnosed as well. The region also has recorded three fatalities. 

On May 26, the Cree Nation Government passed a new law requiring people who are coming back from these areas to self-isolate for 14 days.

Coonishish stressed that people who need supplies should try to buy locally and avoid large population centres in the two regions until the situation has improved. Other risk areas are mines, forestry camps and Hydro-Quebec sites. Anyone returning from those places needs to self-isolate for 14 days

If you travel to Chibougamau Chapais, Radisson or Matagami, you are not required to self-isolate. Those communities are in the Nord-du-Québec Health Region 10, which is within Eeyou Istchee, and is considered a low risk. Nor are you required to self-isolate when travelling between Cree communities.

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Lachlan Madill is a Saulteaux/Cree journalist from Treaty 4 territory in Saskatchewan. He has been working as a television, radio and web journalist the past 15 years. Originally from Regina he now lives in Montreal with his wife, daughter, dog and lizard.