The New Democrats are urging Premier Scott Moe to institute greater localized public health measures in northern Saskatchewan to assist communities in addressing the spikes in new COVID-19 infections.

The hardest hit community of Buffalo River Dene Nation, located in the province’s Far North West Region, has a declared outbreak and has approximately 70 active cases, as of Tuesday.

“It’s not a surprise that the northern rates are low, they’ve been low since the beginning of the vaccine campaign. Extra work needs to be done in those communities,” said NDP leader Ryan Meili.

Meili said La Loche, had 20 percent of its eligible people fully vaccinated and 35 percent with at least one dose.

La Loche and the Clearwater River Dene Nation were the site of a very deadly outbreak. In spring 2020, cases started to appear, linked to travel from the oilsands in Alberta. Soon, the virus would spread to the long-term care facility in La Loche and overcrowded homes on the Clearwater River Dene Nation.

The province responded by banning non-essential travel to the north, implemented rapid testing in the area and brought in temporary shelters for those seeking to quarantine. The outbreak saw nearly 300 people infected and five deaths. The province also prioritized immunizations to remote northern communities ahead of higher infected regions and lowered age eligibility faster than the rest of the province.

“So right now, they’ve got people (that) are positive, know that they’re positive and are out in the community. And there’s nothing they can do to make sure that people quarantined because Scott Moe has absconded from the scene, he’s taken off and decided he wants nothing to do with getting this under control,” Meili said of recent provincial efforts to mitigate northern COVID-19 cases.

On July 11, the province ended all restrictions and lifted the emergency order and in effect removed any enforcement efforts, which may require those who are positive for COVID-19 to remain in isolation.

“Now, as we see these outbreaks, we be making sure we work with local leaders to bring in the public health measures that will keep people safe, whether that’s localized gathering restrictions, supporting social or supporting physical isolation and quarantine, whatever’s needed to get it under control.”

On Monday and Tuesday, the Sask. Health Authority targeted under and unvaccinated communities several in the Far North. Today, public health officials reported 10 new cases in the Far North West, bringing the total active case count in that region to 117. The province has a total of 376 cases. Federal data puts Saskatchewan’s Far North with Canada’s highest cases rate per capita.