The province has restricted non-residents from travelling to Haida Gwaii to help contain the COVID-19 outbreak that has infected 20 islanders to date.
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced the ministerial order on Thursday (July 30) under the state of provincial emergency.
According to the order, people who travel to Haida Gwaii must have documentation to establish that they are a resident or are travelling for an essential purpose.
Acceptable proof of residency includes government-issued identification with a Haida Gwaii address, a status card indicating Skidegate or Old Massett membership, or a signed declaration of residency.
Travel to the islands for delivery of essential goods and supplies, medical appointments, urgent or emergency family matters, or the provision of essential services will be subject to the approval of the unified command structure comprised of the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN), village councils and local governments.
“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.”
Provincial staff will also be deployed to help enforce the travel restriction.
A spokesperson for Emergency Management BC told the Observer that initially, provincial staff will be on hand at the Prince Rupert ferry terminal to support unified command in advising travellers of the order.
“Our focus continues to be on education, and ensuring the travelling public, whether by ferry, boat or plane, understands what this order means and why it is necessary,” the spokesperson said.
A BC Ferries service notice on July 31 also advised customers that provincial conservation officers were enforcing the order by screening passengers at the Prince Rupert terminal prior to all sailings to Haida Gwaii.
“Non-resident customers with bookings on sailings will be contacted by email with further details,” the notice said.
In a separate release, the CHN said the travel restriction would be in place for the duration of the community outbreak, and the outbreak “is not likely to be declared over by the medical health officer until there have been no new COVID-19 positive cases confirmed for 28 consecutive days on Haida Gwaii.”
Haida Nation President Gaagwiis Jason Alsop said the restriction was an “important step toward a renewed partnership in emergency management.”
Billy Yovanovich and Duffy Edgars, chief councillors of the Skidegate Band Council and Old Massett Village Council, respectively, also said they were glad to hear the announcement.
“It will help our local efforts in controlling the outbreak of COVID-19,” Yovanovich said. “The order will be a reset button for our local governments on Haida Gwaii to commit to working together to free us all from this virus as soon as possible.”
As of July 29, there were 13 COVID-19 cases that were considered active on the islands and seven had recovered.
It’s believed the 20 cases are all linked to residents who travelled off-island or had contact with a resident who travelled off-island.
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