Essential Steps + Containment
There are several milestones that had to be met before relaxing any of the NWT’s public health measures. These must remain in-place through the course of this pandemic.
1. Travel entry points in the NWT are strong and secure
The NWT’s busiest borders are with provinces experiencing high levels of community spread, and the situation across Canada is currently severe. In order to maintain containment, travel in the NWT must be restricted and monitored for anyone who has been outside the territory to ensure our boundaries strong and secure at every entry. The GNWT is currently monitoring and assessing its travel prohibition and restriction measures to fill any gaps. We also must rely on residents to take responsibility and follow the orders that are in place – and report noncompliance to Protect NWT if they are aware of it.
2. Risks are reduced from workers coming into the territory
The NWT relies in part on out-of-territory workers, or workers who must frequently leave the territory and return, in some priority sectors. These include areas like transportation, healthcare, infrastructure, mining, and oil and gas. Because these workers are coming from outside the territory, they are at higher-risk of contracting COVID-19; however, the nature of their work often makes it impossible for them to self-isolate when they are in the territory. In mid-April, a Public Health Order was put in place that set out the requirements for the safe operations of remote camp workers in the mining and oil and gas industry. More recently, the Travel Restrictions and Self-Isolation Protocol Order was amended to provide clear guidance on self-isolation requirements for transportation workers, essential service workers, support workers, public infrastructure workers, and correctional officers required to travel out of territory.
3. Expanded community testing available
The NWT has regularly tested at the highest per capita rate in Canada. This is in part because we began testing people who had not travelled or had direct contact before most jurisdictions. While there have been relatively few cases identified in the NWT, we have learned that people can have COVID-19 without even knowing it. We have recently expanded our testing assessment criteria to include additional, less common symptoms of COVID-19 to encourage more testing. Rapid testing systems are being brought into operation very soon. These changes will allow the NWT to have more information to be sure we aren’t missing cases and moving forward based on a false sense of security. They will also allow consideration of region and community-specific measures as the response to COVID-19 continues.
4. Situation remains stable
To begin easing restrictions, we must have zero non-imported cases until at least May 15, 2020 – two incubation periods, or 28 days, since the test confirming the last identified case in the NWT had recovered was collected. This time period provides strong evidence that no cases have been detected, and any outstanding tests will have returned which may have indicated community spread related to the now-recovered case.
This is the highest level of public health restrictions envisioned for the territory. Once public health measures begin to be eased, it is our intent not to return to this level of restriction unless absolutely necessary. The containment phase consisted of the following Public Health Order:
Travel Restrictions and Self-Isolation Protocol – prohibits most travel into the NWT by nonresidents with limited exceptions; requires NWT residents entering the NWT to self-isolate for 14 days in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River or Fort Smith before travelling to their home community; sets requirements for others like flight crews and long-haul truckers to socially distance while in the NWT.
Prohibition of Gatherings and Closures of Certain Business – bans all indoor gatherings and outdoor public gatherings; restricts private outdoor gatherings to 10 or less; closes certain businesses that cannot maintain physical distancing and enhanced disinfection requirements.
Directed at Mineral and Petroleum Industry – requires mining and oil and gas industries to take a number of measures to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and continue safe operations at all mining and oil and gas projects in the NWT.
Travel Restrictions and Self-Isolation Protocol – As Amended April 27, 2020 – amends the travel restrictions and self-isolation protocols order to add measures for NWT residents, flight crews and transportation workers, and to include specific processes and requirements for essential service workers, support workers, workers on public infrastructure projects, and persons-in-transit.