The Premier of the Northwest Territories says there were no “significant incidences” of people not complying with public health orders over the May long weekend.
Premier Caroline Cochrane urged residents to keep that going as pandemic restrictions in the territory began to ease. “Well done everyone,” she said in a Tuesday news conference.
Cochrane said she had been concerned about people not following the rules over the holiday weekend, which came a day after phase one of the NWT’s plan to ease some restrictions was given the green light.
She said she was regularly checking her email and, having taken over as minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, asked to be contacted if there were any major incidents that needed to be addressed.
She said chilly weather may have put a damper on some people’s plans.
Cochrane said her greatest concern now is that if a case of Covid-19 is confirmed in the territory, it could be harder to contain.
Phase one of the territory’s Emerging Wisely plan allows for outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people, friends visiting each other in their homes to a limited extent, and the reopening of some businesses. Cochrane said that means contact lists have become longer.
While there are no active cases of Covid-19 in the territory, and no evidence of community spread, Cochrane stressed people still need to follow the restrictions in place.
“We’re not out of the woods,” she said. “We all have a part to play in this. Abide by the rules.”
Sneaking through the bush?
Cochrane said she found it “disheartening” to see few people wearing face masks when she recently went to the grocery store. That’s something the territory’s chief public health officer has recommended but not mandated.
“It tells me that people are getting too comfortable,” she said. “Never forget that risk is right outside our door.”
Cochrane pointed out examples of that risk, such as the trucks supplying goods that regularly come into the NWT from other jurisdictions with drivers using the NWT’s services. Illegal drug runs and bootlegging across the border are also still happening, she added.
People can lie about their activities at the border checkpoint, Cochrane said.
“I don’t want people to assume that the borders are 100-percent safe. Those borders are not 100-percent safe. There may be people that are sneaking through the bush in the evenings,” she told reporters.
“If you see people you know have been new to the Territories, or have been outside of the territory and they’re not self-isolating, let us know. We will investigate.
“I will never give heck to the public for phoning too much.”
The NWT has a Protect NWT hotline, 8-1-1, that can be called by people who believe others are breaking pandemic-related public health orders.
Cochrane said security had improved since the government recently moved the pandemic checkpoint from Enterprise to the border between the NWT and Alberta.
Residents who return to the territory from other jurisdictions are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River, or Fort Smith. Cochrane said while the government checks up on these cases, staff are also relying on an honour system.