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Winter road cancelled due to COVID-19 outbreak concerns

Wetum Road connects coastal northern communities to the Ontario highway system
Winter road
Supplied photo

There will be no winter road this season because of concerns it could lead to a COVID-19 outbreak in the community, Moose Cree First Nation announced Friday.

Wetum Road is a 170-kilometre long winter road that connects Moose Factory to Otter Rapids. The road, connecting First Nation communities along the James Bay coast to the Ontario Highway system, is built and decommissioned every winter.

According to a statement from Moose Cree First Nation, building the 2021 winter road would "lead to a significantly elevated risk of a COVID-19 outbreak" in the community.

Moose Cree council and the Pandemic Emergency Operations Team (PEOT) met on Dec. 9 to discuss whether to build Wetum Road this year and decided that the health and safety of community members was the “highest priority.”

"We are aware of how many of the membership enjoy the freedom Wetum Road provides to travel at your own schedule to visit family and friends, and for employment or recreational and leisure activities, and of course to shop for groceries and other essentials for your home," reads the statement. "However, protecting the health and well-being of the membership is our primary and most important responsibility as leaders."

According to the statement, a COVID-19 outbreak in First Nation communities would put pressure on the limited healthcare infrastructure in the north.

The money, that would've been spent on building the road, will be used for the direct benefit of the community members over the winter months. The PEOT will work on a plan on how to use the funds instead, according to the statement.

“In a pandemic we must all make sacrifices and put the needs of others before our own, we must protect each other, particularly our most vulnerable,” reads the statement.

“Council and the PEOT continue to strongly advise against all non-essential travel, including visits both into and out of the community over the holiday season."