Warning: The NWT’s Covid-19 guidance has been updated since this report was published. Head to Cabin Radio’s homepage for the latest advice from the chief public health officer.
The NWT’s chief public health officer on Saturday formalized advice not to travel outside the territory unless absolutely necessary, and to take precautionary steps if returning to the North from elsewhere.
The guidance was published in a public health advisory on Saturday evening. The advisory broadly echoes earlier statements from the federal government, which told Canadians to return home while they still can before borders close or travel is further disrupted.
“To limit the spread of Covid-19, Global Affairs Canada is advising citizens to avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada. Further to this advice, the chief public health officer is recommending that NWT residents avoid all non-essential travel outside the Northwest Territories,” Saturday’s advisory read.
The advisory instructed NWT residents coming back from China’s Hubei province, Iran, or Italy to self-isolate at home for 14 days and contact their healthcare provider at once.
Anyone returning from anywhere else should “self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days,” the advisory stated, adding that if you develop a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, self-isolate and contact a healthcare provider. (The federal government’s latest advisory goes further than this, asking all returning travellers – no matter their departure point – to self-isolate. The NWT government told Cabin Radio a meeting would take place with federal counterparts on Sunday, after which the NWT advisory may be updated.)
A number of NWT residents are known to be working to get home from foreign destinations as commercial flights slowly dry up and travel bans are extended.
Kami Kandola, the chief public health officer, made it clear in her advisory that anyone thinking of leaving their NWT home to travel elsewhere at this point was making a mistake.
The advisory said such travel was “not advised” and warned people they could be “subject to the measures of other countries,” find themselves not covered by their travel insurance, and be forced to remain away from home for a much longer time than anticipated.
“Making the choice to stay at home and not travel outside the NWT is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and our communities from the spread of Covid-19, and to support our health system in responding to this pandemic,” the advisory stated.
Kandola is expected to address reporters with an update on Monday or Tuesday next week. There remains no change to the statistics for the NWT: there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in the territory as of Saturday.
Courts make cancellations
Meanwhile, the NWT court system announced a range of changes.
The NWT Supreme Court cancelled all sittings outside Yellowknife for criminal matters until at least May 1. Yellowknife jury trials are cancelled until May 1. Judge-alone trials in Yellowknife “will remain in place for now.” Family and civil chambers will proceed by teleconference until at least May 1.
The Territorial Court issued a three-page document outlining a raft of changes.
All territorial court proceedings outside Yellowknife are cancelled until June 1 except matters involving people in custody that can be conducted by video link.
Wellness court and domestic violence treatment option court across the NWT are similarly suspended.
In Yellowknife, territorial court matters scheduled for trial, preliminary inquiry, sentencing, or hearing in Yellowknife “are to proceed as scheduled until further notice.”
Among a laundry list of changes, all justice of the peace proceedings are cancelled until June except bail hearings and interim proceedings involving judicial interim release, which can proceed by video or audio link.
“While these changes will result in disruption and some delay, it is necessary to be
proactive under the circumstances,” the court stated.
Also on Saturday: