(Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation)

The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, which encompasses a large portion of Tofino and surrounding area, has announced a total lockdown after one person tested positive for COVID-19 in the community.

According to Elmer Frank, Emergency Operations Chair of the First Nation, one member of the community tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home from Port Alberni.

“The individual that did have the virus travelled from Port Alberni, came home and stayed in their home and started coming down with symptoms,” said Frank in an interview with Victoria Buzz.

“The patient was responsible enough to make a decision to confine himself and isolate. There were some contacts directly involved that were very minimal.”

The individual tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, November 22. It is believed that they contracted the virus sometime between November 15 and 18.

Contact tracers were assigned to the case through Vancouver Island Health Authority and the First Nations Health Authority. All of their contacts are under public health monitoring.

“If there is an outbreak, there certainly can be some cause for alarm… The medical facilities that we have here, our local hospital, doesn’t have all necessary equipment,” said Frank.

The individual who tested positive for the virus is able to manage their illness at home, but if anyone requires hospitalization due to COVID-19 in Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, they will have to be transported to a larger hospital elsewhere on Vancouver Island, according to Frank.

As a result, the community has announced a “total lockdown” to prevent the virus from spreading further.

This means all businesses in the First Nation are ordered to close effective immediately, there must be no visitors to the community, and no visiting between households.

“We understand and recognize that our members still need to travel for essential services. Our members are allowed to leave their community for those essentials,” said Frank.

“We ask that only one community member from each household leave to do errands, and try to do all their errands at once to minimize leaving the community.”

In addition, the lockdown order encourages all parents to keep their children home from school at least until everyone who may be affected by the COVID-19 case is found to be free of the virus.

First Nations in BC are able to impose restrictions within their territories that are separate from provincial health guidelines — however those guidelines still apply.

A host of new restrictions and measures were introduced by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry last week to curb rapid transmission of the virus in BC during the second wave of the pandemic.

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