MLA Nunakput: GNWT Must Take Urgent Steps Now to Prevent Further Spread of COVID-19 to Communities

YELLOWKNIFE (April 3, 2020) - Mr. Jackie Jacobson, Member for Nunakput, is calling on the GNWT to take drastic steps now to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the smaller communities. He supports an urgent appeal from the Mayors of Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour and Uluhaktok for more stringent restrictions.

Late Thursday April 2nd, the GNWT announced that there are now four cases of COVID-19 in the Northwest Territories, including a case in Inuvik and one in a smaller community. With this, it is clear that the GNWT’s travel restrictions and self-isolation requirements alone are not going to be enough to keep the COVID-19 virus from spreading to the small communities. 

The Member for Nunakput is critical of the GNWT’s response to this crisis as it affects small communities. “There are no respirators in the communities and no additional health care staff have been hired for small communities. There are no set travel restrictions and no way to enforce them. By failing to translate information on protective measures into Inuinnaqtun or Inuvialuktun, the GNWT has shown little respect for our elders.”

“We cannot afford to allow the spread of this virus into the communities. If this happens, lives will be lost.  I support the Mayors 100% in their request for stricter measures,” said Mr. Jacobson. “The GNWT must halt all travel into and between the smaller communities, except for those transporting necessities.  Any residents returning to their home communities at this point in time should be required to produce written medical clearance. No one else should be allowed in. Period.”

Mr. Erwin Elias, the Mayor of Tuktoyaktuk has asked that the same restrictions be put in place for the Tuktoyaktuk-Inuvik highway that are in place for those coming into the NWT on the highway from Alberta. This would restrict non-essential travel in and out of Tuktoyaktuk. The Nunakput Mayors also question why the GNWT is allowing people from the south to isolate in the north. Returning people should be quarantined on in the south first, and should only be allowed on a plane to the NWT once they have written medical clearance. 

The Mayors would also like to see the GNWT standardize isolation arrangements for all returning residents. Currently, anyone entering into Inuvik from the south is required to self-isolate at home, while those from the surrounding communities are isolated in the McKenzie Hotel. This means someone from Inuvik could potentially infect the rest of their family, in order to save the cost of a hotel room. The GNWT should move immediately to make rooms available for anyone needing self-isolation. 

While the GNWT's desire to protect patient privacy is noteworthy after several recent breaches, the small communities need to know which community might have an infected person so that local leaders and inter-agency groups can adjust their current emergency preparedness plans accordingly. “The GNWT must do everything in its power to protect our most vulnerable residents,” the Nunakput MLA concluded.

For more information:

Jackie Jacobson
MLA, Nunakput
Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly
E: @email