The Ahousaht First Nation has closed its community to non-residents as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19, Ahousaht Elected Chief Greg Louie confirmed to the Westerly News on Monday.
The isolated island community, located a roughly 30-minute boat ride from Tofino, is closed to tradespeople for at least two weeks and to tourists indefinitely.
“It is a big announcement, but the reasoning is simple; on our island, we don’t have very far to go, we’re all very family-oriented, very social people and leadership wants to ensure the safety of our community members,” Louie said. “We have a lot of contractors and subcontractors who come into our community and some of them are from out-of-province, so that was another reason.”
He said work on a $21 million sewage treatment facility and other projects involving out-of-town labourers have been put on hold.
“We deactivated the work today and we’ll do a reassessment in about two weeks,” he said. “With regards to tourists, it might be longer because tourists are coming from all over the world and we want restrictions on that.”
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He added closing the community to non-residents was “an easy decision” due to the “ever-changing, hour-to-hour situation with COVID-19” and that social gatherings within the community have been cancelled, including sports and cultural events.
“We’re really being proactive on this,” he said.
He said Ahousaht residents can still travel in and out of the community for groceries and appointments and Ahousaht’s leadership are monitoring the situation closely and following provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s daily updates on the global pandemic.