Residents should get community support for self-isolation exemptions: health minister

CPHO has sole authority to accept or deny self-isolation exemptions.

Ron Bonnetrouge is the MLA for Deh Cho. (File photo/CKLB).

Ron Bonnetrouge, MLA for Deh Cho, says community leaders in his region are concerned they are not consulted when Dr. Kami Kandola approves exemptions for self-isolation.

Under the current public health orders, all residents returning to the NWT must self-isolate for 14 days in either Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River or Fort Smith. Residents can apply for compassionate, exceptional or family reunification exemptions. If approved, they may self-isolate in their home community.

Bonnetrouge asked Julie Green, the minister of Health and Social Services, why local leadership is not consulted for these applications.

Green said that was to protect the person’s privacy.

“Rather, the advice that is given is the individual contact the community leadership, discuss their plan and achieve their buy-in as a way to ensure the community is comfortable with them being there,” she said.

The territorial government’s explanation of the exemptions says local leadership “is advised of decisions made by the CPHO respecting exemptions”. However, leaders cannot deny Dr. Kandola’s decision if she does grant the exemption, simply “express concern”.

Testing at arrival

Bonnetrouge then asked Green whether testing all people coming into the territory was an option as a way to reassure residents and minimize stays in isolation centres.

(As a side note, the department of Finance recently published financial projections related to COVID-19. The documents show the estimated costs for isolation centres drop from $17.1 million, when the COVID secretariat was first proposed, to $14.6 million.)

Green said immediate testing is reserved for essential workers that work in a healthcare setting.

She added that screening tests are coming but not yet available, and the territory’s current testing capacity is not enough to cover all travellers.

According to Green, the NWT has the capacity to test 500 people a week and about 1,200 people are coming into the NWT per 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.