ALERT BAY, B.C. — A remote coastal British Columbia community is preparing to sound its tsunami warning siren to help impose a nightly curfew to fight COVID-19, says the mayor of Alert Bay.
Dennis Buchanan said Monday his council, local Indigenous councils and federal and provincial officials are working to approve bylaws to permit the imposition of an all-night curfew and travel restrictions for the community.
A local state of emergency for Alert Bay, located off the northern end of Vancouver Island and accessible only by ferry, was declared Friday after a cluster of COVID-19 cases was diagnosed, he said.
"This state of emergency allows us to restrict travel on the Island as well as implementing a curfew on the Island," Buchanan said in an interview. "We're trying to get the word out to everybody."
Alert Bay is located on Cormorant Island, a short ferry trip from the Vancouver Island community of Port McNeill. Most Alert Bay residents are Indigenous, Buchanan said.
The mayor said he did not know how many people in Alert Bay have COVID-19, but health officials recommended the community declare a state of emergency, "and to me that is good enough. I don't need to have the exact number."
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there are between six and eight confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alert Bay and testing is continuing.
"This is action the community is taking to try and prevent transmission within that very close community up there and we're working to support them in doing that," she said at a news conference.
Henry reported 52 new cases of COVID-19 in B.C. since Saturday, including five more deaths. This brings the death total to 86 and the total number of cases to 1,699.
Buchanan said the curfew siren will sound at 9 p.m. and people are expected to be off the streets and at their homes by 9:30 p.m. The curfew will last until 6 a.m. the next morning, he said.
"We're hoping the majority of the people are going to do it on their own," he said. "We're working in conjunction with Emergency Management B.C. to look at having peace officers here to help us implement and enforce the curfew. We're not interested in fining people or anything like that."
Buchanan said he is hopeful the curfew and travel restrictions can stop the spread of COVID-19. The mayor said he was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month and recently recovered.
He said he had not left Alert Bay recently and suspects the only way he contracted the disease was by a local transmission.
Premier John Horgan announced improved health services for rural and remote B.C. communities Monday that included 55 more ambulances, increased air access to hospitals and access to faster COVID-19 testing technology.
"The emergence of the pandemic only highlighted the importance of ensuring we have in place programs and policies that will make all British Columbians equal when it comes to accessing their health care," he said.
Buchanan said Alert Bay's hospital has 10 extended-care and four acute-care beds.
— By Dirk Meissner in Victoria.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Monday, April 20, 2020.
The Canadian Press