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Rural Alaska

Southwest Alaska village worries bootlegging could spread coronavirus

Kwethluk on August 7, 2015. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

BETHEL - Leaders of a Southwest Alaska village have voted to adopt stringent measures to limit an upswing in the illegal transport of drugs and alcohol amid fears that the smuggled goods could prompt a surge in coronavirus infections.

The Kwethluk Tribal Council tried to limit travel in and out of the village to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but the measures resulted in increased alcohol and drugs smuggled into the community where alcohol sales are prohibited, KYUK-AM reported Monday.

The tribal council worries the boxes and bottles smuggled into the village may spread the coronavirus, Kwethluk Tribal Incident Management Team Incident Commander Boris Epchook said.

The new penalties include fines of $1,000 and confiscations of snowmachines or other vehicles used to transport alcohol and drugs.

The tribe also plans to fine people traveling in and out of the village without authorization and for traveling during the village curfew hours of midnight to 6 a.m.

Fines will increase by $1,000 with each additional infraction and confiscated vehicles will not be released until after the pandemic ends, the council said.

The vehicles also will become available for use by the incident command team, the village security team and the Kwethluk Police Department personnel for enforcement work.