The NWT’s pandemic checkpoint on its one remaining highway to the south will be moved from the community of Enterprise to the border with Alberta.
The health minister, Diane Thom, announced the change during a video briefing with regular MLAs on Wednesday morning. The change will come into effect on Thursday, she said.
“Effective tomorrow we are moving the checkpoint from Enterprise to right at the Alberta border,” Thom said. “I think that will alleviate a lot of things.”
Ivan Russell, director of public safety for the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, said the move would “address concerns that people had in wanting to access the area [south of Enterprise, but within the NWT] as the Emerging Wisely plan comes to implementation and many people want to get more outside and enjoy our lovely weather.”
Russell added: “There’s a great deal of interest in the cabins, campgrounds, and falls in that area.”
The NWT government will provide food, showers, and washrooms for people working at the checkpoint, said Russell, and “reliable communication” so reports and calls for help can be filed.
He explained that in March, when checkpoints were initially established, weather prevented the installation of accommodation and amenities at the border, leading the territory to initially use Enterprise instead.
Now, accommodation for six workers will be made available at the border.
Unlike Thom, Russell said there was not yet any “exact timing” to the move but it would take place by the end of the week.
Highway 7 will remain closed
“I’m happy that you’ve moved the checkpoint to the 60th Parallel,” Thebacha MLA Frieda Martselos said in response to Thom’s announcement.
“That’s where it should have been in the first place. That’s a positive thing.”
Initially, Enterprise was chosen as the checkpoint location in part because basing staff near the community gave them more access to amenities and connectivity.
Highway 1, on which the community sits, is currently the only highway connected to the south that remains open to traffic.
Even so, travellers reaching the checkpoint must demonstrate they are entitled to enter the NWT under current pandemic restrictions, which prohibit entry for most people other than residents and essential workers.
The checkpoint is also designed to ensure people heading to small communities self-isolate for two weeks in one of four larger communities first – ordinarily nearby Hay River for those entering the territory via Highway 1.
One of the NWT’s five Covid-19 cases, in the community of Fort Resolution, was reported to involve a person who had travelled directly to the community without first isolating in Hay River.
Highway 7, connecting British Columbia to the Dehcho, has been closed off entirely during the Covid-19 crisis.
The Dempster Highway between Yukon and the NWT is currently closed during the annual spring thaw. It is expected to reopen once ferries begin operating for the season.
The territory’s chief public health officer, Dr Kami Kandola, has said there is no prospect of border restrictions being eased in the near future, nor of Highway 7 to BC reopening.
“As long as BC is reporting cases [of Covid-19], it’s going to be closed,” Dr Kandola told Cabin Radio on Tuesday.
Kandola said Indigenous governments had requested protection of smaller communities, and closing the highway represented the NWT government providing that protection.
Emily Blake contributed reporting.