The first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in northern Quebec.
A Chibougamau resident in their 50s recently returned from travelling, according to regional health authorities, and has been in isolation at home with minor symptoms.
In a message on social media posted Friday, Oujé-Bougoumou Chief Curtis Bosum called the Chibougamau case “a very serious development” for his community, situated about 50 kilometres away.
“There are quite a number of our community members who are travelling to Chibougamau with several people in the vehicles,” he wrote. “I cannot stress enough that we must all exercise a very high degree of caution at this critical moment. Travel should now be only for essentials, and not to spend time in town.”
Cree families in nearby communities like Oujé-Bougoumou and Waswanipi, where there are no grocery stores, frequently travel to Chibougamau for food, gas and other supplies. Residents of Nemaska and Mistissini also often drive to Chibougamau for shopping.
Many Cree also live in Chibougamau for work, school, or because of overcrowding in their home communities. The Chibougamau Eenou Friendship Centre estimates the Cree population in Chibougamau is around 800.
The Cree Nation Government is reminding people that “Eeyou Istchee is the best place to be” during this pandemic.
“Travelling to neighbouring communities for non-essential reasons and congregating in public areas is highly unadvisable at this time,” the Cree Nation Government said in a statement Friday.
A spokesperson for the regional health authority also urged Cree to limit their travel to Chibougamau and to refrain from bringing children and elders with them.
There are four COVID-19 testing clinics in the region: Radisson, Lebel-sur-Quévillon, Matagami and Chibougamau.
As of Friday at 3 p.m. ET, there were 139 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Quebec. One person has died and one person has officially recovered.