The Northwest Territories COVID-19 Testing Strategy Explained

News Releases

Yellowknife — June 5, 2020

As the rapid testing conversation heats up, the territory’s public health and frontline leadership are laying the territory’s testing strategy on-the-table in terms everyone can understand.

The two-page document covers topics on everyone’s mind like mass-testing, rapid testing, and asymptomatic testing – providing a rationale for the territory’s decisions on each.

Testing is the foundation of good pandemic response – allowing health professionals to identify, trace, and isolate cases and contacts to minimize community risk.

From the start, the Northwest Territories has had one of the most aggressive testing strategies in the country – testing those without travel connections and expanding symptoms before other jurisdictions.

The territory will continue to get supplies in-place as test traffic is lower to continue meeting that standard as additional waves of COVID-19 arrive. 



“As we continue our pandemic response, residents want to see exactly how we’ll continue to rise to this challenge. This short document clears up some misconceptions, outlines our approach, and explains how it will keep us safe. And it underscores just how important it is to stay vigilant – especially as we ease our public health measures – because we’re in this for the long-haul, and now is the time to prepare.”

-Diane Thom, Minister of Health and Social Services

Quick Facts

  • The Northwest Territories is testing at a rate of 466 per 10,000 in population.
  • Asymptomatic testing will not be applied on a wide-scale basis – only with priority populations like health care workers entering the territory to reduce risk.
  • This is because asymptomatic testing offers too much risk of false negatives and a false sense of security which then encourages riskier behaviours.
  • GeneXpert rapid testing kits are arriving and being set up in the territory.
  • Mine sites in the Northwest Territories have their own testing strategies they are using to screen workers. This is not funded or defined by the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Relevant links 

Media contact

Mike Westwick

Manager, Communications (COVID-19 Response)

Health and Social Services

1 (867) 767-9052 ext. 49037