'Don't panic': After exiting self-isolation, N.W.T. premier speaks on COVID-19
Caroline Cochrane entered 14-day isolation after travelling for first ministers’ conference
N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane urged residents not to panic as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the territory's economy.
Cochrane spoke to Trailbreaker host Loren McGinnis by phone Friday morning after ending a 14-day period of self-isolation.
"Don't panic. Don't hoard in the grocery stores," she said. "There is enough to supply for everyone as long as we all share and remember our northern spirit."
Cochrane said the pandemic hit the territory "very quickly," forcing the government to respond quickly.
"We were maybe a little bit naive," she said, without elaborating, "but we started to prepare as soon as it was crossing borders."
Over the past two weeks, Cochrane said she's been focused on "keeping all the departments on track [and] making sure that ministers … were on top of their files."
The territory entered pandemic planning with a health minister, Diane Thom, and chief public health officer, Dr. Kami Kandola, relatively new in their roles.
"It's been very, very busy," she said.
As premier, Cochrane said she's also pushing the federal government for more action to support the local economy.
"This is not a good thing for our economy," she said. "I'm not going to sugarcoat it at all."
"When the order came out, we were telling people like barbers … restaurants, etc, please close your doors," she said. "Most people are only a paycheque away from bankruptcy … [and] having to close their doors during this may mean they never open them again."
Watch: Here's how Yellowknife businesses are handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Canada, the federal government has announced up to $27 billion in emergency economic relief, including emergency benefits to support those who have been laid off or closed their business as a result of the pandemic, as well as up to $55 billion in tax deferrals.
The federal government has also made $11.4 million in direct transfers to Indigenous organizations in the N.W.T., and allocated $600,000 from a $1 billion fund to help fight the outbreak.
In her interview Friday morning, Cochrane suggested that's not yet enough.
"We've been really stressing to the prime minister that we need an economic stimulus going forward," she said.
Self-isolation not what she expected
Cochrane is returning to the office today after ending a period of self-isolation following a trip to Ottawa for a first ministers' conference.
"I'd no sooner got off the plane than … I'd heard the meeting had got cancelled," she said.
After returning to the territory, Cochrane entered self-isolation at her Range Lake home, following the latest advice of the chief public health officer.
"I'm doing great," she said. "It's exciting to be free from the house today."
Self-isolation, said Cochrane, was not what she expected.
"I'd made the wrong assumption … that I would have all this free time," she said. "That was a mistake in thinking…. This has actually become more cumbersome than if I was working in the office."
"Since I've been working from home … I also brought back my two children from post-secondary education…. so I've been non-stop with cooking and doing my work."
Asked her advice for northerners at this point in the pandemic, Cochrane said the order to isolate doesn't need to mean cutting yourself off from the world — but it's still important to keep your distance from others.
"Stay two metres away from each other. Do not 'social' isolate — connect with your friends," she said. "But please, don't do this group gathering."
Written by John Last, based on an interview by Loren McGinnis