The South Slave’s Kátł’odeeche First Nation has established checkpoints at two entrances to the community and is granting entry only to members.
Chief April Martel said her community needed to take action in order to ensure the safety of its Elders as concerns grow regarding the global coronavirus pandemic.
Seniors are considered particularly at risk from the virus, which causes the Covid-19 disease.
Community data from 2019 shows that last year, 44 of the First Nation’s 331 inhabitants were aged 60 or over.
“We would like to take precautions for our people,” Chief Martel told CBC North’s Lawrence Nayally on Thursday afternoon.
“The reason why we’re doing this is we have such a large number of Elders in our community. We’re trying to protect them from getting sick.”
The move comes a day after the NWT government declared a territory-wide public health emergency. There remain no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the NWT as of Thursday evening.
Checkpoints on the ice road and highway leading into the community are being manned, Martel said. Only members of the First Nation will be granted entry.
“There are so many different people coming in and out of the reserve that we had to do this,” she told the CBC.
“Our council and myself decided these are the steps we needed to take to protect our people, especially our Elders, young babies, and mothers that are pregnant.”
Martel later told Cabin Radio anyone appearing symptomatic at a checkpoint would be turned away. They would be instructed to attend hospital or an ambulance called, she said. (The NWT government has asked all residents with symptoms to call ahead before attending a healthcare centre.)
Hunting and fishing
Meanwhile, the community has sent people out onto the land to hunt and fish in order to ensure a good supply of traditional foods for the weeks ahead.
Earlier in the week, Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya encouraged moving onto the land as a way for NWT residents to socially distance themselves during the pandemic. He will do so himself from Friday.
Chief Public Health Officer Kami Kandola has also recommended doing so for those who can.
Martel urged her members who may have travelled south to Edmonton to self-isolate on their return to the Kátł’odeeche First Nation.
“What we’re trying to say is, if you come back from Edmonton, these are the processes you need to do – like isolating and distancing yourself from people,” she told the CBC’s Nayally.
“We can come and bring you a care package for food, medication, or anything like that.”
Sarah Pruys contributed reporting.