The Sahtu’s North-Wright Airways is shutting down all passenger flights for three weeks, saying “the time is now to close the connection from the Sahtu to Yellowknife.”
North-Wright is based in Norman Wells. The airline announced on Monday it will operate no passenger flights in the Sahtu from March 25 until at least April 13.
While many airlines are slashing their operations in order to remain financially viable during the coronavirus pandemic, North-Wright suggested it was taking action out of fear for the consequences if Covid-19 reaches the Sahtu.
“We are deeply concerned for the safety and wellbeing of the regon considering North-Wright is the only link for passenger travel to and from Yellowknife,” read the airline’s Monday statement.
“We have a social responsibility to try our hardest to combat the spread of this virus.
“If we act fast and act early, we may be able to keep the virus out of our communities.”
As of Monday, there was one confirmed Covid-19 test in the Northwest Territories – a person who had flown home to Yellowknife in the second week of March after travelling through BC and Alberta.
There have been 410 negative tests to date. The number of tests still awaiting analysis is unknown.
The NWT’s chief public health officer has also emphasized the importance of keeping the coronavirus disease out of smaller communities.
Dr Kami Kandola on Saturday introduced mandatory two-week isolation in larger towns for returning NWT residents before they can go on to more remote areas, in a bid to stall the spread of Covid-19.
North-Wright said closing down for at least three weeks would come with “extreme business implications” but the health of the Sahtu people was paramount.
Cargo, mail, and chartered flights – such as those bringing in medical personnel – will continue to operate, the company said in a letter to residents.
That letter, from company president Travis Wright, also bore the signatures of Sahtu leaders Daniel Masuzumi, Leeroy Andre, Frank Andrew, David Codzi, and Sherry Hodgson.