The NWT’s chief public health officer denounced a resident who publicly ignored the territory’s Covid-19 travel restrictions, launching an investigation into their conduct.
For a week, all returning NWT residents have been ordered to file self-isolation plans and isolate for two weeks in either Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik, or Fort Smith, to contain the spread of coronavirus.
However, on Friday, NNSL reported a resident named Mike Harrison – denied entry to the NWT at the BC border, where Highway 7 has been closed since Tuesday – was ignoring the order to self-isolate in a large community.
Harrison said he had used Highway 1 instead and would drive straight to his Lindberg Landing cabin. He risks a $10,000 fine and six months in prison by doing so.
Other residents have described taking pride in self-isolating, despite near-identical circumstances. “I would rather be in a hotel room for 14 days than see our people sick,” a Dehcho resident told Cabin Radio from self-isolation in Hay River earlier this week.
NNSL said Harrison had told the newspaper: “I am breaking the law somewhat except … they will have a hard time making those charges stick and it would be funny if it goes to the courts.
“My defence will be that they didn’t assess me individually based on my particular situation and lumped me into a policy that services people living in communities and they’re putting me at risk.”
On Saturday morning the NWT’s chief public health officer, Dr Kami Kandola, tore into Harrison as an example of someone behaving irresponsibly and putting others at risk.
He is now being investigated, Dr Kandola said.
“When Mike Harrison chose to ignore this order, he decided not to do his part,” read a statement issued on Kandola’s behalf.
“He chose to prioritize his own personal comfort over the safety of our territory. And he chose to go on to embolden others to ignore our medical direction by touting his act in the media.
“Mr Harrison returned from southern British Columbia and through Alberta – two epicentres of this pandemic in Canada. He fits the profile of a risky returning resident – the exact kind for which we instituted these orders.”
Kandola reiterated the travel restrictions had been put in place to protect NWT residents’ friends, families, and communities from Covid-19, which has so far infected more than 600,000 people worldwide, killing 28,000.
As of Friday, there was one confirmed case in the Northwest Territories.
“We did it to slow the spread of the virus, and make sure those coming from hotspots in the south were in locations with the necessary level of health services to treat those who fall ill,” said Kandola.
“If he returned to his homestead, hundreds of kilometres away from a hospital and off-grid, and became ill with Covid-19 he’d caught down south, this could put unnecessary strain on our medical system at the time it needs it least.
“It could cost an avoidable medevac trip, or cause him to unknowingly spread the virus with mild symptoms if he went to town in Fort Simpson, where there are less robust medical services. These are exactly the kinds of situations we’re looking to avoid right now.”
Kandola continued: “There is no denying there are inconveniences we’re all now facing, but pandemics are more than inconvenient. They’re an extraordinary challenge that we need to make sacrifices to overcome.
“That means playing on the same team as the thousands of Northwest Territories residents who are doing the right thing – protecting our Elders, our families, our loved ones, and our communities by doing their part.”