British Columbia

B.C. bans travel to Haida Gwaii amid COVID-19 outbreak

In light of the recent outbreak on Haida Gwaii, a group of remote islands off the coast of B.C., the provincial government has banned all non-resident travel to the archipelago.

There are 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Haida Gwaii, 13 of which are considered active

Essential travel, including the delivery of supplies and goods, will still be allowed. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

In light of the recent outbreak on Haida Gwaii, the provincial government has banned all non-resident travel to the archipelago.

The decision was made, the province says, in consultation with public health authorities, the Haida Nation and local governments on Haida Gwaii.

"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," said Mike Farnworth, the minister of public safety and solicitor general, in a news release.

Around 5,000 people live on Haida Gwaii, a remote group of islands off the coast of B.C., according to the 2016 census.

The province says travel to Haida Gwaii will only be permitted for the delivery of essential items, medical appointments, urgent or emergency family matters and other essential services decided by the Council of the Haida Nation, village councils and local governments.

Right now, there are 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Haida Gwaii, 13 of which are considered active.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that many people remain in the incubation period, so there's a potential for new cases.

She says the order will ensure resources are available on Haida Gwaii to protect the public. 

"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," she said.

Haida Gwaii is an archipelago off the northwest coast of British Columbia. (CBC)

The Haida Nation says that B.C.'s order was an important step toward a renewed partnership and reconciliation.

"The province's work to enact an order that aligns with the Haida Nation's state of emergency is a respectful act and recognition of Haida jurisdiction and our responsibility as governments to work together to protect all communities and residents of Haida Gwaii from the threat of COVID-19," said Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, the president of the Haida Nation.

The order comes amid rising tensions between the Haida Nation and a local fishing lodge on Haida Gwaii that reopened despite a state of emergency in the Haida Nation because of COVID-19.

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