The Alberta government is expanding a program that provides free hotel rooms, food and $625 to those who need help quarantining.
Previously, the initiative was only available by referral from Alberta Health Services to residents of Edmonton and Calgary, where it proved successful.
Since the province launched its COVID Care Teams and outreach campaign in mid-December, 850 Albertan have used hotel rooms for self-isolation.
While available to all Albertans, the program is expected to be of particular help in First Nations and Métis communities, where over-crowding has caused the virus to spread quickly.
Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback praised the government initiative, which was unveiled at a news conference on Monday afternoon.
“Having come from an area that has been particularly hard hit, we are grateful to the province for providing a means for our residents to access a place to isolate safely,” he said in a statement.
“Knowing they will be able to cover their bills when sick will make a world of difference for the Samson Cree Nation and all other Indigenous communities.”
Chief Ivan Swavan, of Loon River Cree First Nation, in northwestern Alberta, said the biggest challenge in preventing spread of the virus in his community has been over-crowding in some homes.
Swavan praised the expansion of the program, which helps alleviate the financial pressure on families whose members have to self-isolate and will now be able to get a free hotel room for 14 days.
Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said COVID care teams have been going out into communities where virus cases are high to provide support and help limit the spread of the virus. Besides providing masks, sanitizer and information, the teams can arrange safe transportation to COVID assessment and testing facilities.
“Expanding the isolation will help more Albertans keep themselves and their families safe,” said McIver Monday afternoon.
“No matter what they earn, what community they live in or what language they speak, all Albertans should be able to isolate safely to protect themselves, their families and their neighbours from COVID-19.
“Reducing the spread means we can get Alberta’s economy back on track while we protect both lives and livelihoods.”
Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson said expanding the program was right thing to do.
“For Indigenous communities, it’s been especially rough lately with outbreaks on different parts of the province.”