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A First Nation in southern Alberta has implemented a curfew as its health workers monitor more than 200 people for signs they may have developed COVID-19.

Siksika Nation Chief Ouray Crowfoot said in video messages posted on Facebook that as of Thursday there were 21 known COVID-19 positive cases with links to the community east of Calgary, and that five separate and unrelated case clusters had been uncovered in the previous 12 days.

Chief Crowfoot said that as of Wednesday, 258 Siksika Nation members were under “active investigation and daily followup” by the community’s health services team – a number he said had quadrupled in only three days.

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On Friday, councillors approved a temporary curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time, with exceptions that Chief Crowfoot said can be made on an as-needed basis for work or other reasons.

Chief Crowfoot encouraged Siksika Nation members to co-operate with health officials if they call, and to avoid non-essential travel to nearby cities.

He said the risk of community transmission is high and that each new case cluster makes it even harder to contact trace and isolate people fast enough.

“We realize you have freedom of choice, but we don’t have freedom of consequence. If we choose not to follow these guidelines, the consequence may be that we contract the virus and spread the virus further through our community,” Chief Crowfoot warned in a video message posted Thursday.

In a message posted Friday, Chief Crowfoot said his community had met meeting with federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and Alberta Indigenous Affairs Minister Rick Wilson to address shortfalls in resources for dealing with the pandemic.

Chief Crowfoot said the community’s annual Sun Dance ceremony was continuing, but that each participant was being tested prior to entering and that health workers were screening people as they came and went.

“It is understandable that people may feel anxious regarding this current situation, but if we continue to stay vigilant to the public health measures and do our best to limit travel and to avoid gatherings we have a chance to slow down the spread on our nation and also give our health team a chance to do their job,” Chief Crowfoot said.

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Siksika Nation is west of Calgary. In fact, it is located east of the city.
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