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The streets of Lynn Lake are quiet this week after COVID-19 managed to infiltrate the remote northern town, whose 500 or so residents believed they were highly unlikely to face an outbreak. 

"I guess people thought being out here so far to the north, we were kind of apart from that, but it takes one person to be infected and come and infect everyone else, so to speak," said chief administrative officer Tom Matus.

On Wednesday, Manitoba officials reported 37 cases in Lynn Lake, which is 320 kilometres northwest of Thompson. 

Manitoba's Northern health region accounted for nearly half of all 158 cases announced in the province Wednesday. Thompson reported 14 cases.

The outbreaks are "related to larger households and some spread amongst households," acting deputy chief provincial public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said Wednesday.

"There’s a couple point-of-care testing devices out there that public health is using with their partners on the ground to look at case identification in a real fast manner to mitigate risk," he said.

Matus said a dozen members of a federal task force were expected to arrive in Lynn Lake this week to provide support to the town.

Several RCMP members were already in the area monitoring people who are self-isolating at home.

"We’re just doing the best we can right now to get through this dilemma," Matus said.

Lynn Lake officials meet daily with RCMP and are considering an enforced curfew, Matus said.

"I think we’re going to get through it, and people are complying now. We’re talking about people getting tested now and finding out they were positive up to two weeks ago. So in the last week, I would say, people have been complying," he said.

He said a handful of tickets had been issued to people who disobeyed public health orders.

The spread was sudden, Matus said.

He left the province to visit family in northern B.C. on Dec. 18, when there were no cases recorded in the area, and there were more than 20 when he returned two weeks ago.

"It just shows how fast this thing can mushroom if you’re not really following orders, but now people are," he said.

Matus said he wasn’t concerned about his trip to B.C. because he voluntarily self-isolated upon his return, even though public health orders don’t require people who travel from western provinces to do so.

"It was all good as far as the province allows it, because I was going to Western Canada, so we’re allowed to do it," he said.

"I’m here by myself. My family’s in northern B.C., my wife and children. I’ve been here about three months, so I went to go visit."

Twitter: malakabas_

Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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