Strict measures to protect from coronavirus transmission are being enforced on the far reaches of northwest Vancouver Island.
On Thursday, April 9 a state of local emergency was declared for the Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k'tles7et'h' First Nations, barring non-residents from visiting the village of Houpsitas. As signed by Legislative Chief Richard Leo, the declaration orders that only Houpsitas residents are permitted on the First Nation’s treaty settlement lands that surround Kyuquot Sound. This also applies to Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k'tles7et'h' members who don’t live in the village. The First Nation has over 550 citizens.
“Citizens not ordinarily resident in Houpsitas should not return to Houpsitas but should instead remain where they normally reside and follow the Province of British Columbia’s COVID-19 safety guidelines,” states the declaration.
Only outsiders providing essential services will be permitted to enter the village upon a screening and approval from the First Nation’s Pandemic Response Team “with minimal contact with Houpsitas residents,” according to the orders. The same restrictions apply to the delivery of goods to the community.
“Non-essential travellers and non-residents will be asked to turn around and not enter KCFN treaty settlement lands,” states the emergency declaration.
In turn, Houpsitas residents are also restricted from leaving except for essential travel. The village is only accessible by boat or float plane, and spread of highly infectious disease presents a concerning possibility for the remote community. According to Island Health’s website, the local health clinic provides “no overnight admittance; we will arrange a transfer to a larger centre if needed.”
The closest city to Kyuquot is Campbell River, where Houpsitas residents normally venture for needed supplies or medical travel. In late March at least one case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the city, detected at the Berwick by the Sea seniors’ residence.
The state of local emergency will remain in place until April 24, and is subject to extension.
This is the second state of local emergency declared for Houpsitas in recent weeks. On March 15 the Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k'tles7et'h' First Nations issue another state of emergency after more than a week of continued power outages. Local facilities without generators often had no electricity in early March, including the school, which was forced to cancel classes.
The B.C. Utilities Commission responded to community concerns by issuing an order to Kyuquot Power Limited, a utility owned by Synex International. This order requires the utility to amend the issues causing power outages in Houpsitas, and provide daily updates on work to improve service to the remote community.