Coronavirus
Sahtu

Norman Wells set to ‘put measures in place’ as Imperial cuts workforce


The Town of Norman Wells will convene a special meeting on Sunday to update its emergency measures as Imperial Oil reduces its workforce to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Imperial’s oil production is a key economic driver for the town. The company, which also supplies power to the community, shared its pandemic safety plan with residents in a private Facebook group on Saturday.

Oil workers are allowed to skip the mandatory two-week self-isolation now being imposed by the NWT government on most people entering the territory.

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Instead, the workers are being screened by Imperial before travelling to Norman Wells.

In its update to residents, Imperial said it had reduced its rotational workforce by 30 percent. Almost half of its Norman Wells-based staff are working from home.

Work at the site has been cut back to focus on maintaining the facility, ensuring the town has power, and preparing for the forthcoming Mackenzie River break-up.

“Should the situation require us to shut down, we have developed plans to do so,” read the company’s statement.

“However, carrying out those plans will result in the need for additional workforce on site. This is a decision we would make only after careful consideration.”

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Imperial’s pre-flight screening at the Yellowknife and Edmonton airports involves screening from a medical professional, including temperature tests, before workers can be allowed to board flights bound for the Sahtu.

The company said it had “well-established business continuity plans to manage impacts related to infectious disease outbreaks.” Anyone showing symptoms once in Norman Wells will either quarantine at home or at camp.

No state of emergency yet

On Sunday, town councillors will meet to pass an updated emergency measures bylaw and plan.

Doing so “will allow us to put the measures in place to legally respond to the developing situation within the Northwest Territories and our community,” read a statement issued by Mayor Frank Pope on Saturday.

“We are not enacting a state of emergency at this point,” Pope continued.

“Once we pass this legislation, we will be in a position to act at a moment’s notice.”

Norman Wells is not among the four large communities in which residents returning to the NWT are currently being told to self-isolate for two weeks.

That means anyone trying to return to the community from outside the territory faces at least a two-week wait before being able to board an internal NWT flight to the Sahtu.

Pope’s letter ends by urging residents to “take a break from social media and get outside for some fresh air” – while reminding them to practise social distancing and remain calm.

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