The GNWT has asked the federal government and the Red Cross for additional health resources to help tackle the current COVID-19 outbreaks, Premier Caroline Cochrane said on Aug. 19.

In a televised interview with Katie Simpson on CBC, Cochrane said that dealing with coronavirus outbreaks is a “huge concern because of capacity” with the healthcare system “already stretched to the limit.”

“Our biggest problem is we don’t have the services. (And) we’ve had more cases in the last week than we’ve had in the entire pandemic.”

The outbreak of COVID-19 infections among NWT residents spread from one case in each of Fort Good Hope and Norman Wells on Aug. 15 to 128 active cases by Aug. 19.

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The premier noted that a “major concern” is the territory only has two ICU beds at Stanton Territorial Hospital, but said Alberta is a source of backup for health resources.

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Less than six people have been hospitalized in the outbreaks so far, she said.

Cochrane added that the GNWT has also reached out to the Rangers for logistics assistance, echoing a request that Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya said is being considered.

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“We need help from nurses with testing and logistics. Any help they can give us would be greatly appreciated. I don’t know who will be coming and the services they’ll provide. I expect more information on that in the next day or two,” Cochrane said.

While vaccination rates are high in the NWT, she acknowledged there is fear towards vaccines in some Indigenous communities because Indigenous people have been used as test subjects for vaccines in the past.

“We need to work harder to dispel that fear.”

In closing the interview, Cochrane said now isn’t the time for federal political candidates to visit the territory for their campaigns.

“I’m not sure that people coming here would be welcome unless they have family. But once we have tourism again they’re welcome to come.”

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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