The NWT government on Thursday moved to clarify how coronavirus travel restrictions apply at the border between the territory and Alberta south of Fort Smith.
The area is a special case. Only residents of the Smith’s Landing First Nation and the tiny community of Fort Fitzgerald can access the NWT using the highway that leads from Alberta into Fort Smith.
Residents of Fort Fitzgerald and Smith’s Landing are told by the NWT government they may cross the border into Fort Smith only for essential services like gas, health and pharmacy service, groceries, and to check their mailboxes.
The two northern Alberta communities ordinarily share services with Fort Smith as they themselves are too small to sustain their own. Fort Fitzgerald, for example, has a population of just eight people.
Elsewhere in the NWT, returning residents are being asked to self-isolate for two weeks in one of the territory’s four largest communities. There are exceptions for workers supporting essential services like healthcare, workers delivering supplies, and those working in the mining and oil industries.
Fort Fitzgerald and Smith’s Landing residents who are providing essential services to the NWT, such as healthcare workers, would be similarly exempt from the border closure’s self-isolation measures.
The two communities’ residents are also allowed to travel to Alberta by air using Fort Smith’s airport, but only if they have not travelled out of their home communities to other parts of Alberta – including Fort Chipewyan – in the past 14 days.
If they have been to other parts of Alberta in the past two weeks, they will require special authorization from the NWT’s chief public health officer to travel through the NWT by air. This authorization will only be granted in emergency situations, the territorial government said.
Meanwhile, Fort Smith will continue to deliver water and fuel to its northern Alberta neighbours.
Fort Smith residents are strongly advised not to visit Fort Fitzgerald or Smith’s Landing.
Many Fort Smith residents ordinarily use ski and hiking trails along the Slave River on the Alberta side of the border. The territorial government did not advise against crossing the border to access outdoor trails in its Thursday statement.
However, residents are reminded to remain at least two metres apart at all times.