Hereditary Chiefs Nanus (Mike Tallio) and Q’umulha (Rhonda Schooner) (photo submitted).

COVID-19: Bella Coola enters ninth week of travel restrictions as checkpoint remains active

The checkpoint has now been active for 57 days

The checkpoint at the bottom of the hill remains active in the ongoing effort to protect the valley from COVID-19. So far no end date has been provided but Nuxalk leadership has stated that they plan to “work collaboratively” on a re-opening plan for the Valley when the time is right.

“We want to extend our gratitude to everyone in the Bella Coola Valley. It has been a difficult time but thanks to you we do not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19,” said Nuxalk Emergency Operations Centre Deputy Jessica Miller.

An information checkpoint was activated by the Nuxalk Emergency Operations Centre on March 25 and was followed by a community lockdown notice issued by Nuxalk hereditary leaders on April 27. The community is now entering its ninth week of restricted travel and it doesn’t appear to be easing anytime soon.

“At present the checkpoint is continuing and non-essential travel restrictions remain in place,” said Miller. “Nuxalk leadership is working on a collaborative re-opening plan for the Valley. We want to work together to ensure re-opening works for everyone and is done safely and effectively.”

Neighbouring Tsilqhot’in communities such as Xeni Gwet’in and Stone still have active checkpoints, as do the coastal communities of Haida Gwaii and Bella Bella, which recently extended their travel ban to May 31. There are also checkpoints in Tahltan, Nisga’a and Nak’azdli Whut’en in the north. The message is the same: visitors are not yet welcome.

Many parks in the regions are still not open, with Gwaii Haanas National Park announcing it will not open until at least June 30. A re-opening date has not yet been determined for local Tweedsmuir Provincial Park.

International travellers returning to B.C. are still required by law to self-isolate for 14 days and complete a self-isolation plan. The Canada-U.S. border is not slated to re-open until June 21, and non-essential travel throughout the province is still strongly discouraged.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said last week that people leave non-essential travel for later in the summer and stay closer to home in the meantime.

“Wherever you live is an outstanding place. Stay there and enjoy it,” Horgan said. He also noted that even if travel to other communities may be safer later in the summer it doesn’t mean people there would welcome it. Horgan said travellers should be considerate of people who live in small communities and might be concerned about the potential strain on their health-care resources.

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