A former northern Saskatchewan MP says the current COVID-19 outbreak in La Loche has only been exacerbated by an already dire housing situation.

Georgina Jolibois represented the NDP in the constituency of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River from 2015 to 2019.

She also served as mayor of La Loche from 2003 to 2015.

Jolibois said chronic housing shortages in the northern village and overcrowding has made it more difficult to stop the spread of the virus.

“Many homes are overcrowded,” she said. “Having three to 15 people living in home is what our reality is.”

Jolibois added because northern communities like La Loche lack access to many basic essential services like grocery stores and gas stations, having the current travel restrictions in place makes life even more difficult.

Although commendable the province is significantly increasing coronavirus testing in the northern village, this testing needs to be expanded outside the community, she said.

“It’s great that everyone’s going to get tested but the testing should also be done for other residents in Saskatchewan in other communities as community transmission of COVID-19 is taking effect. Meadow Lake has two cases, or three, or other places. COVID-19 is still in Saskatchewan.”

As of Sunday, the government had tested a little over 28,000 people for COVID-19 which is just over two per cent of Saskatchewan’s population.

Last month, the provincial government pledged $370,000 to northern communities to help them deal with the effects of the pandemic.

An additional $20,000 of government money has been slated for La Loche.

Jolibois said the money is a good start but woefully inadequate.

Northern Saskatchewan mayors have been calling on the province for $10 million

Saskatchewan’s far north region has roughly 73 per cent of the province’s active coronavirus infections.

(PHOTO: Former Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River MP Georgina Jolibois. File photo.)