GNWT reduces self-isolation requirements for travel

Dr. Kami Kandola addresses reporters at the Legislative Assembly. (Photo by Luke Carroll/ CKLB Radio.)Dr. Kami Kandola addresses reporters at the Legislative Assembly in April 2021. (File photo/CKLB)

The chief public health officer (CPHO) has lifted some of the restrictions around travelling outside of the NWT.

Dr. Kami Kandola, NWT CPHO, announced in a press conference on Wednesday that fully vaccinated residents can now complete a COVID-19 test after eight days of isolation.

If the traveller is showing no symptoms and the test comes back negative, individuals can leave self-isolation.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Moderna vaccine.

These changes are effective immediately, so any recent travellers currently isolating and that are fully vaccinated can be tested on day eight of their isolation.

Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, the territorial medical director, says rapid tests which provide results in 15 minutes will be used, but these results will need to be confirmed in a lab which can take more than 24 hours.

“My best advice would be once you know what your day eight is, book that test early, so you’re insured to get it as close to that date as possible if not right on date,” she says. “Ideally, we’ll be able to keep our turnaround times quite low.”

Anyone identified as a positive case or that is a potential contact in community spread must self-isolate immediately. You must also do so if you develop symptoms.

Fully vaccinated members of a household where someone is returning from travel are not required to self-isolate if no symptoms develop.

Non-vaccinated members of a household must self-isolate with the traveller — this includes youth who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. If the traveller is fully vaccinated and gets a negative test after eight days, neither have to continue to self-isolate but must self-monitor for symptoms.

Household members (even if vaccinated) of a non-vaccinated traveller must self-isolate for 14 days, even if no symptoms develop.

As for documentation of vaccination, Dr. Pegg says NWT residents can access this online by requesting their immunization records from the GNWT or NTHSSA.

Despite the changes, health officials are still cautioning residents to refrain from non-essential travel.

(Chart provided by GNWT)

New vaccine data

During the announcement, the government shared updated vaccination data for the NWT.

So far, 63 per cent of residents have received at least their first dose of the vaccine, and 51 per cent have been fully vaccinated with both doses.

However, “We’re starting to see a lull in our vaccine update,” said Julie Green, minister of Health and Social Services.

Health officials say they’ve shared community-specific data with Indigenous and community leaders but will not be sharing this information publicly “in order to protect communities with low uptake from public criticism or stigma.”

Premier Caroline Cochrane stated in a press release that she has always been committed to relaxing restrictions.

She said “This change reflects the protection that is provided by vaccines and I encourage all eligible adults to get vaccinated. It is the most effective weapon we have to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Remote tourism allowed

Tourists will be allowed to enter the NWT this summer if they are going to a remote site.

Businesses wishing to offer these opportunities must submit a Remote Tourism Operators COVID-19 Operations Plan to the office of the chief public health officer.

The plans must show how the tour operator will “carry out business with no, or very minimal, contact between travellers and NWT residents that are not  employees of the remote tourism operation.”

The news release does not define “minimal contact.”

The plans will also have to show:

  • Transportation of workers and tourists in and out of remote locations
  • How it will manage a COVID-19 case in a remote setting
  • Medical extraction and capacity on site
  • On-site isolation, support and care staff, if needed
  • Other mitigation plans for COVID-19 risks
  • Ensuring client compliance with public health measures

According to the GNWT, there are about 60 remote tourism operators in the territory.

With files from Luke Carroll.