NWT residents can now have a few friends over (at a distance) as first phase of relaxing public health orders kicks in 

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

Well it’s official. There have been no COVID-19 cases in the Northwest Territories for 28 days, meaning the first phase of the territorial government’s plan to relax the public health orders can begin immediately.

Under the first phase of the Emerging Wisely plan, residents can now have up to five guests in their home to a maximum of 10 people total. Everyone should still stay two metres apart. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola recommends sticking to the same five people to have over, and see other friends outdoors instead. Residents should also avoid having other people over if an older person is present or someone with a weaker immune system.

Outside gatherings can be as large as 25 people, again as long as you keep your distance from one another.

Outdoor activities can start again, including sports (other than rugby) and day use areas. Overnight camping is still not allowed at private or public campgrounds (anywhere else you’re fine). Playgrounds, libraries, beaches are all good to go with limited capacity and other protections.

Several types of businesses can now open again, including personal services like massage therapists and hair salons, and other facilities like museums, bottle depots and tour operators offering “staycations” for NWT residents.

However, all businesses that wish to re-open need to to have an exposure risk plan to be filed with the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission. These plans must also be posted in their locations.

Restaurants will still need to keep their indoor seating sections closed, could possibly start offering patio service.

Premier Caroline Cochrane issued a statement reminding residents, “We aren’t out of the woods yet, and as we head into the long weekend, I urge all residents to remember that we need to work together to keep COVID-19 out of the NWT.”

Diane Thom, health and social services minister, added that relaxing the public health orders was “exciting news” but that the government’s enforcement task force was still very much in force and investigating reports of non-compliance.

Here are more details on phase one. 


Not one and done 

The Emerging Wisely plan makes it very clear that, even likely, that stricter public health orders can return if cases of the virus occur once again.

Dr. Kandola has said that a single travel-related case (as all have been so far) would not be enough to tighten orders once again, but evidence of community spread may be.

There are no changes to current border controls under the first phase. In fact, they are not affected until the last phase of the relaxation plan, which is triggered by an available vaccine or another widespread effective treatment. Experts estimate a vaccine is still 12 to 18 months away.

“We could anticipate lifting those travel restrictions earlier than when a new vaccine comes out,” said Dr. Kandola earlier this week. For that to happen, the rest of Canada would need to flatten the curve and maintain it through an expected second wave of the virus in the fall.

You can search a full list of activities in the full plan (below) and when they would be allowed again.


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.