The NWT’s infrastructure minister urged Dehcho residents not to embark on any final trips south into British Columbia, hours before Highway 7 is to be closed at the border.
The Dehcho will be shut off from BC at 5pm on Tuesday. Only emergency and enforcement vehicles will be permitted to cross between the province and the territory.
All other vehicles, regardless of whether their occupants are residents or not, will be turned away. The aim is to make it easier to enforce the NWT’s new border closure, introduced on Saturday, and slow the spread of Covid-19.
On Monday evening, infrastructure minister Katrina Nokleby told Cabin Radio that while the highway will remain open until 5pm on Tuesday, residents are discouraged from crossing the border between now and then.
Anyone crossing into BC and trying to get back before 5pm will face two weeks of self-isolation in Yellowknife or Hay River, Nokleby warned.
The NWT government says Highway 1 should be used instead. Even there, the restrictions put in place on Saturday will remain in effect – barring access to the territory except for returning NWT residents and some other special cases.
In a statement on Monday evening, the NWT government said the order had been made using powers in the Public Highways Act.
Several Dehcho residents had described the absence of a checkpoint to Cabin Radio on Sunday and Monday, claiming vehicles had been able to move freely into the territory. The highway is often used by Dehcho residents to access grocery stores and other amenities in Fort Nelson, BC.
A checkpoint south of Fort Liard on Monday evening.
Checkpoints are being established to ensure travellers entering the NWT meet the criteria listed under the border closure’s exceptions, and to make sure they complete a self-isolation plan. But Highway 7 represents an awkward area for the territory to police – another potential reason for its closure.
The restrictions call for residents re-entering the NWT to quarantine for 14 days in either Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik, or Fort Smith – none of which are remotely near the BC-NWT border. How that would have worked in practice was never clear.
Closing the highway entirely eliminates that confusion.
“Drivers are reminded that it is unsafe and illegal to drive on a closed highway. Please obey all traffic signs and barricades,” read an NWT government statement.