Amid COVID-19 fears, Oneida shuts down access to the public
LONDON, ONT. -- Oneida Nation of the Thames is currently closed to the public in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Initially, the reserve had posted on its Facebook page it was closing at midnight on March 29, but after word got out an overflow of customers fled to the reserve for their last minute purchases.
This forced shops to close even earlier, at 4 p.m.
“I want cigarettes,” Heather, a customer says, “We heard that they were closing down the reserve so he [husband] dragged me out of the shower, my hairs still wet We are just trying to get our cigarettes during this pandemic thing.”
A backlog of cars were at all four entry points into the reserve by the afternoon. Chris, a driver in the traffic jam at carriage and Longwoods roads, couldn’t believe it.
" [I’ve] never seen it this crazy, not this crazy at all. It’s pretty intense, man it looks like the whole city is coming out.”
All four entry points (Kennedy's Corner, Evan John's, Ambrose Corner, and the bridge) will have access and closure notices and Oneida personnel will be stationed at those points with four shifts per day.
The security will have a list of Oneida citizens, and approved community residents.
The flyer states that "Identification proof of residency will be required."
"We are hoping for a smooth closing," Jessica Hill, Chief of Oneida Nation of the Thames tells CTV News.
"All the suppliers and personnel who work in our community will be allowed to come in to do the business they have to do," says Hill.
She cited their long-term care facility family as an example.
"We will hopefully have all the medical supplies and Personal Protective Equipment that is required to do this.
Our concern here is following those safety precautions."
Hill says that as of Sunday morning there is no cases of COVID19 in their community
"We don't have any cases and we want to keep it that way," Hill added.
"Once it calms down, we'll revise things and know when this can be lifted."
She adds that the entrances will be open for emergency vehicles, and the permanent structures at the entry points will be able to be moved to allow for fire, police or EMS to access the community.
Stores will have limited hours and essential products for Oneida citizens and community residents only.
On Sunday afternoon there were extremely long lines at gas stations and cigarette shops across Oneida as residents from outside the reserve tried to make purchases before the closure.
Some businesses like Gen 7 Fuel, Kennedy's Corner Store, and Stand Alone Smokes have posted on Facebook that they will be closed until further notice as of Sunday.
With files from CTV's Jordyn Read and Brent Lale