The commander of Joint Task Force North warned Covid-19 cases in northern Canada “will surely increase” as he told staff the next two weeks are critical for the country’s response to the pandemic.
Brigadier-General Patrick Carpentier, in a letter to northern members of the Canadian Armed Forces, said 10 cases in the North were comparable to more than 3,000 in southern Canada as he warned: “Stay home and do not let your guard down.”
Joint Task Force North, based in Yellowknife, leads Canadian military operations across the sub-Arctic and Arctic.
Brig-Gen Carpentier wrote to members ahead of the NWT government confirming on Monday it would extend the territory’s state of emergency by a further two weeks.
A state of emergency was first declared on March 24. It differs from a public health emergency in that a state of emergency gives the territory’s cabinet powers, while a public health emergency gives the chief public health officer powers.
Paulie Chinna, the minister of municipal and community affairs, signed the extension on Monday.
The NWT government said the extension ensured a wide range of powers remained available, but added there had been no immediate change to the territory’s circumstances.
Premier Caroline Cochrane will address reporters shortly after 11am on Tuesday. The NWT is expected, at some point this week, to announce new enforcement measures related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
No Easter gatherings, warns Fort Smith
Carpentier said in his letter to armed forces members: “While we are doing very well in the territories, do not be lulled by the numbers. With the return of spring breakers and students in the last few days, these cases will surely increase.”
All five of the NWT’s confirmed Covid-19 cases to date have been directly related to travel.
Carpentier noted Canadian Rangers in all three territories had recently been activated to support their communities.
The Town of Fort Smith thanked Canadian Rangers in a statement on Monday, saying they were already helping local emergency management operations.
With Easter approaching, Mayor Lynn Napier and Fort Smith town councillors urged residents not to consider gathering with other households to mark the occasion.
Stressing the importance of physical distancing, the Town wrote: “that means no gatherings with family and friends from outside your household, including during Easter.”
Carpentier signed off his letter with the suggestion that “the next two weeks are critical” to the trajectory of the pandemic across Canada as a whole.
“Stay home, stay safe, be ready,” he wrote.