In response to a community outbreak on Haida Gwaii, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth is using extraordinary powers under the current state of provincial emergency to restrict non-resident travel to the archipelago, maintain essential goods and services for residents, and support the Haida Nation and the province’s continued COVID-19 pandemic response.
“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 news 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 to restrict non-resident travel to Haida Gwaii has been 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 will deploy staff to support communities on the mainland and on Haida Gwaii to implement the travel restriction.
There are currently 20 cases associated with the outbreak on Haida Gwaii. 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.
Testing for the islands has been prioritized and results are being received within 36 hours. 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 Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “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.”
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.
On March 18, 2020, Farnworth declared a provincial state of emergency, the day after the provincial health officer declared a public health emergency. The provincial state of emergency and the subsequent extensions are based on recommendations from B.C.’s health and emergency management officials.