Kenora mayor wants non-essential travel halted across Manitoba, Ontario border
Published Wednesday, April 8, 2020 5:29PM CST Last Updated Thursday, April 9, 2020 7:06AM CST
A checkpoint at the Manitoba border is pictured in a file photo. (Photo courtesy Josh Crabb)
WINNIPEG -- The Mayor of Kenora is asking for all non-essential travel to his community to be stopped due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Dan Reynard said Wednesday he is calling on the border between Manitoba and Ontario to be closed to non-essential travel, and is speaking with his Member of Provincial Parliament Greg Rickford (Kenora-Rainy River) about the possibility of doing that.
“Obviously this is not something the municipality can do. It's not something the health unit can do at a local hospital, this has to be worked in conjunction between the two provinces,” Reynard said during a phone interview with CTV News on Wednesday.
Checkpoints are in place on the Manitoba side of the border, and officials are reminding travellers to self-isolate for 14 days. At this point, nobody is being denied entry.
Reynard said in the last two weeks, more out-of-town licence plates have been seen in the community, as they prepare their cottages and cabins for the summer camping season.
He said he’s concerned more people in the community would overwhelm the town’s hospital.
“Our local hospital is a small hospital,” he said. “It does not have the capacity to meet what we are anticipating what the demands will be just for our community, and our surrounding First Nations communities.”
He added, “The concern is, anytime - and let's be realistic - we come to our camp, we're excited,” he said. We're starting to get things ready. Accidents happen. And any pressure that's put on our emergency department is just taking physicians and nurses away from dealing with the COVID crisis. So that's why we're asking people to stay away.”
Reynard said the town is in the process of converting its arena into an isolation unit for COVID-19 patients, and preparing a school to serve as a field hospital if capacity is exceeded. The town has already declared a state of local emergency.
As of Wednesday, there are no COVID-19 cases in Kenora.
Reynard said he is proud of the support from summer residents in the community, noting they are a large part of the town’s economy.
“They contribute so much, whether it's donating to the hospital or supporting our businesses,” he said. “We love them. We appreciate them. But this time, we just are asking to stay away. And we'll welcome everybody with open arms once this is all settled.”