A few residents in Aklavik had inquired to hamlet senior administrative officer Fred Behrens about the possibility of shutting down the ice road to Inuvik to keep the COVID-19 virus out but Behrens said that is simply not possible.
“One of my councillors went on Facebook this morning and mentioned something about closing the roads,” he said. “So I had to go on there and say ‘No, no, no, we can’t do that. It’s not in our authority.’
“We can’t close the road, its for us to get into Inuvik for food and such.”
He said the ice road is now effectively the lifeline for the community to bring in food, medicines and other sundries and if shut down, supplies would have to be airlifted into the community.
That was probably the biggest issue that’s come across Behrens’ desk this week since all travel in and out of the Northwest Territories became restricted to essential travel only last week.
He noted municipal services remain at full gusto and anyone who needs extra water is free to contact the municipality or the housing corporation to make a request. Billing payments have been delayed, though Behrens requests people who are overdue on their bills contact him to make arrangements to bring their accounts back to the black.
Residents were on their own for arranging sports or other activities, however.
“Unfortunately we’ve had to close all our recreational facilities and my casual staff have been let go, though we only had a couple of days left for them anyway,” he said. “People can and have always cruised around town on their snowmobiles — with safe distancing and all the rest of it.”
Although it was suggested, Behrens said the hamlet is definitely not considering a ban on alcohol during the crisis. Aklavik does not have a liquor store.
“When we declared the state of emergency the RCMP were wondering about a temporary prohibition order, but there’s no way we’re going to do that,” he said. “We don’t have any type of restriction on if you can drink or not drink in the community. An individual has the right do whatever they want in the community.”
With residents still trickling back in, particularly from schools, Behrens there is a small amount of apprehension in the community, but noted the required 14-days of isolation for anyone coming back into the territory had largely put that to rest.
A brochure with information on how to protect oneself and loved ones was sent out earlier in the week, along with excercise guides and several colouring books to help the children stay occupied.
He noted getting the rules out to residents was key, but he was happy with the measures being taken throughout the territory.
“There’s definitely a lot less people walking around this week than there was last week,” he said. “A lot of people are out at their camps, which takes a lot of the stress out of the people in the community. As long as people are in their camps, their pretty well isolated from everyone and everything.”
He noted the community had four residents currently in quarantine at the Mackenzie Hotel in Inuvik but all of them are students.
“We had one lady just come back from school and of course her parents tried to go meet her at the airport,” said Behrens. “But she was whisked away pretty fast apparently. But they were able to scream at each other over long distances.”
Overall, Behrens said there is an air of cautious optimism.
“There’s definitely people who are worried, but with the actions the territorial government are having, I think that has ease a lot of the concerns that small community members have had,” he said. “If it hits a small community like ours, it would be devastating. But if we can keep it out with these measures, hopefully we will be in for a good time instead of a bunch of sadness.”