British Columbia

Lake Babine Nation declares state of COVID-19 emergency, bans non-essential travel on territory

The B.C. First Nation, located about 220 kilometres west of Prince George, has closed access to five communities until at least Nov. 5 due to a surge in virus cases.

The First Nation has closed access to its five communities until at least Nov. 5

Lake Babine Nation declared a state of emergency Friday, banning non-essential travel and gatherings of any kind in all five of its communities until November 5. (Facebook/Lake Babine Nation)

A surge in COVID-19 cases has prompted a B.C. First Nation to stop non-essential visitors from entering all five of its communities to reduce the spread of the virus.

Lake Babine Nation, located about 220 kilometres west of Prince George, declared a state of emergency Friday and announced it will not be permitting non-essential travel on its territory until at least November 5.

The declaration comes as the First Nation is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, with two to three members testing positive each day, according to a statement from the nation. 

There are at least 12 lab-confirmed cases of the virus among nation members and many other members are awaiting test results, the statement said. Lake Babine Nation has a registered population of 2,500.

"The virus can't move on its own, it needs people to move it," Murphy Abraham, Chief of Lake Babine Nation, said in the statement. 

"As we approach Thanksgiving, we need to stop this virus in its tracks. Today's declaration bans all non-essential travel and visiting until this outbreak is under control," he added.

The state of emergency also orders all members who have tested positive for the virus — or live with someone who has tested positive — to stay home and isolate. 

Transmission up from children to adults

The Lake Babine Nation Emergency Operations Centre says it is observing more transmission from children to unvaccinated adults, including those with compromised health. 

"While our children have been able to fight the virus effectively, that's not always true for the parents and grandparents they are passing it to," said Bernard Patrick, director of the emergency operations centre.

"The common thread is gatherings. Transmission is happening while travelling, visiting, and attending funerals and potlatches," he said.

Last Saturday, the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation, also located near Prince George, closed access to its land to non-residents until mid-October amid the latest uptick in COVID-19 cases in the community.

The Northern Health region has been struck hard by the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting more than double the provincial average of new COVID-19 cases and more than four times the hospitalization rate of other health regions per 100,000 people.