The B.C. government is restricting travel to Haida Gwaii due to its ongoing community outbreak of COVID-19.
As of July 30, there were 20 positive COVID-19 cases within the communities of the Haida Nation, 13 of which are active while seven people have fully recovered. According to Northern Health, all cases are believed to be related to residents who have travelled off-island, or who had contact with a resident who has travelled off-island.
B.C. Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says he is using extraordinary powers to restrict travel to maintain essential goods and services for residents.
“The Province, Northern Health and the First Nations Health Authority are working closely with the Haida Nation and local governments on Haida Gwaii to respond to this COVID-19 outbreak,” Farnworth said in a release.
“Our foremost concern is the health and safety of all residents of Haida Gwaii, and we’re working together to limit further spread of COVID-19.”
The decision was made in a government-to-government collaboration with Council of the Haida Nation, Skidegate Band Council, Old Massett Village Council and local governments, in consultation with the provincial health officer, the province said.
The province says it will deploy staff to support communities on the mainland and on Haida Gwaii to implement the travel restriction.
Travel to Haida Gwaii will continue to be permitted, subject to the approval of the collective Haida Gwaii communities, for the delivery of essential goods and supplies, medical appointments, urgent or emergency family matters, and for the provision of essential services as defined by the unified command structure comprised of the Council of the Haida Nation, village councils and local governments.
Testing for the islands has also been prioritized and results are being received within 36 hours, the province said. Community contact tracing is ongoing and supports are in place on the islands for those who have tested positive, including special accommodations for self-isolation if needed.
“COVID-19 has been challenging for everyone in our province. I am thankful the leadership of communities across Haida Gwaii has worked together to take these actions collaboratively,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“This order will help the Province ensure resources are in place to protect public health and safety as Haida Gwaii works to contain this outbreak. These measures are part of a swift, effective and co-ordinated public health response that includes prioritized testing, thorough contact tracing, and prioritized travel to and from the community.”
There were 86 cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Health region as of July 30, with no new cases reported Thursday.