The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake announced on May 15th that they will gradually reopen some stores as a first phase of reopening the economy on June 1st, if the situation remains as stable as it has been since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.
Commissioner of Public Safety, Lloyd Phillips, explained to Le Soleil that this approach is « conservative » to avoid giving a date that would change every week, like the situation the Quebec government dealt with, as « it can be frustrating for businesses and citizens « .
«As we speak today, June 1st is still our target. But health and safety is still the priority as we closely follow the situation everyday », stated Phillips, when interviewed on May 19th.
All stores and services on the highway except for bars, beauty salons, gyms, poker rooms and restaurants with dining areas are going to reopen and are going to be accessible to non-locals. The Council considers the economic impact of the closures and the loss of revenue for stores.
« We had compliance from business owners, including the ones owning cigarettes stores when they closed, even if people were coming from outside. Unfortunately, we had to give fines to them, but they ended up getting the message as well « , Phillips said.
Number of cases in Khanawake remained stable and around 15 since the beginning of the crisis.
« Closure of the territory was the main factor. But other factors include the fact that our community as a whole took the situation more seriously than other communities, 95% complied with the measures. That is the number one reason « , affirmed Phillips.
It is still hard for families to not gather, but they follow the rules.
« My brother lives next door and I haven’t been in his home, or him in mine, for two and a half months. It is more and more challenging, but people really understood why we’re doing what we’re doing « , he added.
Phillips thinks that once businesses are reopened, things are going to change and be addressed differently. The second phase of reopening is still undetermined. Residential areas are going to stay closed to ensure that members of the community feels safe.
During a press conference live on Facebook, Lisa Westaway, Executive director of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, reminded the community of the importance of maintaining social distancing even if the stores are reopening. It is a « measure that will stay in place for a very long time », she affirmed.
« People have expressed a lot of fear and anxiety about what that means and how that will impact us moving forward » she said.
Ms. Westayaw added that they expect new cases, but transmission will be limited within households if the community stays responsible.