New public guidance for testing in the NWT

Public Service Announcement

Yellowknife — December 31, 2021

The NWT Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) is immediately issuing the following testing guidelines for anyone who receives a POSITIVE rapid antigen test. These are the take-home tests that are provided at airports, through NWT schools, and through the DetectNWT program. Rapid antigen tests will also become available through health centres as soon as possible. They are currently available at the COVID-19 testing clinic in Yellowknife for those who meet eligibility.

The NWT is preparing for an influx of returning travellers in the coming weeks and therefore it is expected that more COVID-19 positive cases will result due to importation. Testing centres must prioritize laboratory resources to concentrate on highest-risk individuals and will no longer confirm most at-home positive tests.

Fully vaccinated individuals who receive a positive result from an at-home test will not need to repeat testing at a testing centre if they are at low risk for severe outcomes and have mild, non-serious symptoms. These individuals will be required to isolate for 10 days along with their household members and other close contacts. They may be asked to inform their close contacts of a positive test.

Self-reporting now required

If you have tested positive using an at-home testing kit, you must call ProtectNWT to report your result. Self-reporting is a very important responsibility. Self-reporting means that public health can notify and protect other members of your community by identifying:

  • Close contacts
  • High-risk exposures sites (gatherings and closed in settings such as bingo halls, gyms, faith-based gatherings, long term care, household or private social events)
  • Other public exposure sites where all contacts cannot be identified or notified (bars, restaurants, grocery stores)

ProtectNWT is available 8 am to 6 pm, seven days a week by calling 811 (within NWT) and 1-833-378-8297 (outside NWT) and by email:

Do I need to book a COVID-19 test?

To help NWT residents better understand if booking a COVID-19 test at a clinic or health centre is required, please use the following navigation tool: Do I need to book a COVID-19 test?

When to seek medical immediate attention

Call 911 or your health centre immediately if you are experiencing difficulty breathing (struggling for breath).

When to contact a health centre 


If you had a positive test and you are experiencing only these symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe fatigue or weakness
  • Severe sore throat or headache

If you have any other COVID-19 symptoms you find concerning you should make an appointment for follow-up at your clinic or health centre. Please call ahead to make arrangements and inform the staff that you’ve had a positive at-home test.

Higher risk

If any of the circumstances outlined below apply to you, it means you are at a higher risk. If you receive a positive at-home test result you must isolate immediately and contact public health or your health centre to arrange for testing and/or further assessment. Some people with risk factors may be eligible for certain targeted treatments only once they have had a confirmed positive COVID-19 test from a testing centre.

You are in a higher risk group if you are:

  • Not fully vaccinated (less than two doses of vaccine)
  • Younger than five-years-old
  • Older than 60 years old
  • Pregnant
  • Have had an organ transplant
  • Undergoing cancer treatment
  • Taking immune suppressing drugs
  • Taking heart or lung disease medicine every day
  • Diagnosed with severe kidney or liver disease
  • Suffering from dementia or have had a stroke
  • Diabetic
  • Obese (Body Mass Index more than 40)

Working in healthcare or with vulnerable populations

People who work in a healthcare setting including long-term care facilities or with vulnerable populations (RCMP, shelter workers, correctional officers, daycare workers, or teachers) should contact a testing centre if they have a positive at-home test result.

Testing after travel

You require a NEGATIVE Day 8 test from a healthcare provider to end self-isolation after travel if not fully vaccinated. Contact public health or your health centre to arrange for testing. Book in advance. Negative at-home tests do not allow you to end self-isolation early after travel.

Safe at home

The CPHO now considers all new cases in the NWT a result of the Omicron variant. The majority of people infected with the Omicron variant will safely recover at home. A small percentage will have severe symptoms from a COVID-19 infection that require medical attention. The chance of severe outcomes is higher if people are unvaccinated, elderly or immunocompromised.

It is important that people who have COVID-19 and their contacts isolate in place (where they are staying when notified) if possible. Omicron is highly contagious. It can spread to others 48 hours before symptoms appear and takes an average of three days to develop symptoms. Household contacts at the highest risk of exposure.

Any movement of persons who have COVID-19 increases the risk of transmission to others. People recovering from COVID-19 at home should isolate away from others as best as they can, get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, monitor symptoms, and follow healthcare provider advice (See: Isolating Safely at Home).

People with COVID-19 may need help with groceries or other supplies while recovering at home. All communities should have plans in place to assist people who are isolating by dropping off necessary items outside. People with COVID-19 should not leave home without healthcare provider consent.

About close contacts

You are considered a close contact if you interacted with anyone with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection while that person was contagious. This puts you at higher risk of acquiring COVID-19.

People who live in the same home as someone with COVID-19 are at increased risk of developing COVID-19 and are close contacts. Other situations, like being in the same car or room, or being close to someone with COVID-19 for at least 10 minutes, also means you are a close contact.

Sometimes, out of caution, it is necessary to consider all those who were at the same particular location or event as a person with COVID-19 as contacts because there just isn’t enough information to confirm one way or the other. However, very brief contact at offices or stores, especially where people are wearing well-fitted and well-constructed masks, are not considered close contacts.


All commentary is attributable to Dr. Kami Kandola, Chief Public Health Officer for the Northwest Territories.

Relevant links

Media Contact

COVID-19 Coordinating Secretariat
Department of Health and Social Services
Government of the Northwest Territories