News Release: Public Health Emergency Declared in the Northwest Territories

News Releases

Yellowknife — March 18, 2020

As of 12:00pm today, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Diane Thom, has declared a territory-wide Public Health Emergency under the Northwest Territories Public Health Act in response to  the COVID-19 global pandemic to protect public health in the Northwest Territories.

The Public Health Emergency was declared upon the recommendation of Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola, and is in effect from March 18 through April 1.

The purpose of calling an emergency is to allow the Chief Public Health Officer to take strong, binding actions to protect all Northwest Territories residents, and swiftly respond to the daily-evolving needs of the healthcare system as it tackles a pandemic.

At this time, Dr. Kandola is focusing efforts on controlling the spread over the next 60 days. This is the most crucial period as the territory works to slow spread, flatten the curve, and keep our residents safe.

The public health emergency covers the entirety of the Northwest Territories and will provide expanded powers to the Chief Public Health Officer to:

  • authorize qualified people to provide additional aid and services as needed;
  • expedite emergency licensing of additional health care providers;
  • make orders and provide directions restricting or prohibiting travel to or from any area within the Northwest Territories;
  • coordinate and provide for the delivery of medical services;
  • procure and provide for the distribution of medical supplies and equipment across the NWT;

Under the Act, Public Health Emergencies may last up-to 14 days. However, if the risk to public health remains, the Minister may re-declare a Public Health Emergency, as often as necessary.


Quick facts

  • Under a Public Health Emergency, the Chief Public Health Officer may take any reasonable measure considered necessary to protect public health.
  • This could include making Orders — legally binding direction — to individuals and organizations including businesses, governments, agencies, and non-profit groups to respond to a Public Health Emergency.
  • Examples of Orders could be that individuals self-isolate, businesses enact emergency measures to alleviate health risks, or major changes be made to traffic incoming in the territory.


“This is the right step to take to protect all Northwest Territories residents from the spread of COVID-19. Nothing is off-the-table when it comes to keeping our residents safe, and our healthcare system strong. We urge all residents to do their part by following all advice from healthcare professionals every single day, and supporting each other as we all change our lifestyles in response to the pandemic. All residents should keep informed on the latest health information, and stay calm while we rise to this challenge together. ”

  • Diane Thom, Minister of Health and Social Services

“My advice to the Minister of Health and Social Services comes from the latest medical information across the country, and a careful consideration of the Northwest Territories’ unique situation. We are working around the clock — public health, nurses, doctors, and frontline staff — to address the spread of COVID-19. We are continuing to move forward with one of the most aggressive testing regimes in the country, tracking contact history of all possible patients, and taking appropriate action to reduce contact with others. Remember: our best defense against this virus is each other. If you’re sick, stay home, avoid contact with others, and call your local public health or healthcare centre. Wash your hands — a lot. Keep at least two metres between yourself and others.”

  • Dr. Kami Kandola, Chief Public Health Officer

Related links

For all COVID-19 Media Requests, Contact:

Cabinet Communications

Government of the Northwest Territories