CPHO says NWT in ‘home stretch’ to easing public health orders, plan still to come

NWT Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola. (CKLB file photo.)

In a half-hour long news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola did little more than tease an upcoming plan to ease the public health orders that have been in place for more than a month in the NWT.

Dr. Kandola said the easing of those orders would be phased in starting with low-risk activities.

Asked specifically what first orders may be relaxed, Dr. Kandola didn’t point to a single one but said the plan would allow for the relaxing of multiple measures at the same time, such as “outdoor gatherings and activities” and allowing businesses to re-open.

Higher risk activities, like mass indoor gatherings, will take longer to come back.

On Tuesday, Premier Caroline Cochrane said businesses will be able to re-open with appropriate protective equipment.

CKLB asked Dr. Kandola if these business owners could turn to the territorial government to access this equipment.

She referred to the recent government funding to develop medical and non-medical protection like masks and face shields.

“We’re looking internally … because we anticipate there will be a demand for this type of (personal protective equipment) PPE and non-medical masks,” she said.

She added that the type of business will dictate what kind of protective equipment it will be required to use.

According to Dr. Kandola, these are the types of questions and discussions that will take place once the plan is released publicly and when it actually comes into effect.

How long that period will be is still unclear.

Border restrictions to continue into summer

If you’re a tour operator, unfortunately it’s unlikely you’ll be getting much business this summer.

“Throughout the summer we will continue to maintain high border security,” said Dr. Kandola.

The only non-residents allowed into the territory will be those that match current exemption criteria.

Looking past the summer, Dr. Kandola said part of the to-be-released plan includes preparations for a possible second wave of COVID-19 in the fall.

“Sometimes it can be more severe and intense than the first wave,” she said. The plan will outline what measures need to be taken if there is a second wave.

Several provinces across Canada, including Alberta, Manitoba, and even hardest-hit Ontario and Quebec have all released plans to start re-opening.

(Whether re-opening a province with nearly 35,000 cases and 2,400 deaths, like Quebec, is a good idea is debatable.)

Dr. Kandola was asked why it took NWT officials so long to come up with a plan, especially considering the territory has had no active cases for more than two weeks.

She said her focus last week was on amending the travel restrictions “to make sure border security was tight before we relaxed measures.”

“At the same time, we developed a final draft of a plan, as you’ll see it is quite detailed and it will answer the questions for an NWT context,” she added. “It’s an NWT-unique plan.”

Dr. Kandola said her office should release the plan within a week.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.