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Don't get too comfortable even as restrictions slowly loosen, premier warns

The financial assistance from the federal government reflects a mutual understanding of the NWT's unique needs during the pandemic, said Premier Caroline Cochrane on Friday. NNSL photo

Premier Caroline Cochrane cautioned the public on Tuesday to remain vigilant even as some restrictions have been lifted, as it could only take one case for community spread of Covid-19 to occur.

"It only takes one incident. I hate to say it but we have people who are skipping borders, people that might be doing illegal drug runs or bootleggers, those things are happening. At no point are we totally contained that we’re 100 per cent sure we’ll never have Covid-19," she told reporters in a press conference.

"We’re not in a bubble. We have trucks coming every day with supplies and groceries we need. The drivers need to eat and use bathrooms. We also have people going out of the NWT and we ask them to self-isolate when they come back." 

Caroline Cochrane, premier of the Northwest Territories, warned the public not to become too comfortable with loosened restrictions because even one case of Covid could lead to community spread. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo.

She added that even though the border check point has been moved to the border area from Enterprise that doesn't mean the border is completely sealed.

"I don't want people to assume that the borders are 100 per cent safe. There might be people sneaking through the bush in the evening. It all goes back to the public. If you see people that you know who are new to the territory or have been outside of the territory who aren't self-isolating let us know and we’ll investigate. 

"I want to give kudos to the public because we have had over 600 people who have called and reported and we’ve investigated each one. It’s better to be safe than sorry."

Cochrane spoke just four days after the NWT began the first phase of the Emerging Wisely recovery plan, the first stage after the containment phase, the highest level of public health restrictions that the NWT has witnessed. Restrictions on some businesses have been relaxed and outdoor gatherings are permitted for groups of up to 25 people.

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The premier added that a lack of adherence to the orders and regulations related to the pandemic could lead to a roll back of the phased approach to recovery.

"It only takes one slip for us to get community spread and then we’re back into containment. We all have a part to play in this. I want everyone to enjoy their summer but I want everyone to realize that we're not out of the woods, that we all have a part to play in this." 

Cochrane added that the GNWT's recovery plan was not called "Emerge Safely or Emerge Quickly or Emerge Now, it's called Emerge Wisely because we're still at huge risk."

She explained that she visited the grocery store on Monday and it was "disheartening" to see most customers not wearing masks.

"The masks aren't to protect you, they're to protect others and neighbours and those that we love," said Cochrane, who said she wore a mask.

"It tells me that people are getting too comfortable. Don't get too comfortable. Never forget that risk is right outside our door and it's only us that can stop that. Wear your mask, keep your social distancing, abide by the orders and report if other people aren't."

The premier admitted that she had been a little worried about possible violations of health regulations over the May long weekend now that some restrictions have been loosened, but said there weren't a large number of complaints nor "any significant incidences that people had to be addressed. Well done everyone."

Personal protective equipment

The NWT has enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to last the territory three weeks and Cochrane said she isn't concerned that supplies will run out.

Canada's premiers have made an agreement where jurisdictions in need of PPE would support others, and Cochrane cited Quebec as a province that might need help, but said the NWT could seek that support as well, if needed.

To acquire more PPE, the GNWT is working with suppliers and the federal and Alberta governments.

"We‘ll be trying to make sure that quality of control is looked at before we get the supplies here. We have two manufacturers in the North putting out hand sanitizers and (the Department of) Industry, Tourism and Investment has put out a call to anyone who wants to sew masks because not all masks have to be medical grade. People working at making sewing masks for a profit or for friendship (can) get a hold of us, we have funding available to help you with your supplies."