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NWT orders returning residents to self-isolate, isn’t closing schools yet

An electron microscope image of the coronavirus responsible for the Covid-19 disease
An electron microscope image of the coronavirus responsible for the Covid-19 disease. Felipe Esquivel Reed/Wikimedia

Warning: The NWT’s guidance on schools has been updated since this report was published. Head to Cabin Radio’s homepage for the latest advice from the chief public health officer.

Anyone coming back to the Northwest Territories from outside Canada is being told to self-isolate for 14 days, the NWT’s chief public health officer said on Sunday.

The announcement upgraded earlier advice to self-monitor only as the territory tries to remain free of coronavirus and the disease it causes, Covid-19.

People returning to the NWT from within Canada are asked to self-monitor for 14 days, then self-isolate if symptoms of Covid-19 develop: coughing, a fever, or difficulty breathing.



If you develop symptoms, contact a healthcare provider.

Symptom-free international visitors to the NWT who arrived in the past 14 days are told to either self-isolate for the remainder of that 14-day period, or leave the territory “as soon as possible.”

Covid-19 cases in Canada as of March 15, 2020

Map shows confirmed cases of Covid-19 documented by provinces and territories in official updates as of 4:45pm MT on March 15, 2020.

There remain no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the territory. The NWT said it was not yet ordering the closure of any schools or daycares.



Dr Kami Kandola said of the self-isolation guidance: “We recognize this may be a challenge for employers and communities as they seek to continue to provide essential services.

“Employers of essential workers should activate business continuity plans … to allow for essential services to continue while minimizing risk to the public.”

More: NWT urges residents to stop spreading Covid-19 rumours

The territorial government said it would provide guidance on request to employers activating business continuity measures.

“During a period of self-isolation, if you develop symptoms, please call a healthcare provider and give them information about your symptoms and travel history,” said Kandola. “Please do not go to a health centre without calling ahead.

I highly encourage people to go out on the land. That’s a great social distancing measure.DR KAMI KANDOLA

“While there are still no confirmed cases, it is essential that we take, strong, proactive action. We all have a role to play in keeping our communities healthy and safe.”

Kandola said many gatherings in NWT communities would continue to face cancellation to best protect residents. “We cannot afford to have individuals introduce the virus into smaller communities,” she said.



“I highly encourage people to go out on the land. That’s a great social distancing measure.”

Anyone trying to organize an event who needs guidance can use a special email address to get advice.

No school closures ordered

On Saturday, Kandola had warned residents not to leave the territory unless absolutely necessary. That advice still stands.

“We are in a good position to manage this together,” she said on Sunday. “We are taking decisive and aggressive actions because we must try to limit the burden on our healthcare system, flattening the curve.”

In Alberta, officials on Sunday recommended the immediate closure of all K-12 schools and daycares in the province. Alberta healthcare officials said they believed “community spread” in the province – the ability of the virus to spread easily and sustainably – was likely taking place.

In full: NWT public health advisory, March 15
How-to guides: Self-isolating | Self-monitoring

Kandola said teachers and students in the NWT must follow the self-isolation guidance, and individual schools may be closed if too few staff remained available, but no blanket closure of schools or daycares would yet be ordered.

She said such a move would likely be triggered if the NWT had a case of Covid-19 within one or more schools.



“At present, we have no cases,” she said, “but you will hear of school closures as primarily a decision made at community level, likely due to business continuity.”

Kandola said restrictions on travel within the NWT were possible at a future point, but were not yet being considered.

More: NWT’s coronavirus website – bookmark this, check it regularly

Nationally, Canada on Sunday said efforts to increase airport screening measures were under way – likely to involve additional questioning of travellers about their recent movements.

Dr Theresa Tam, Canada’s national chief public health officer, said: “You’re no longer just focusing on three areas. You’re focusing on all travellers from outside of Canada.

“We’re rapidly ramping up the communication. We will be making sure that we have those messages out at all points of entry.”

Residents in foreign countries are still urged to return home while they can, before border closures and travel disruption escalate.

To date, there have been more than 300 cases of Covid-19 identified in Canada. There has been one death in Canada connected to the disease: a resident at a British Columbia long-term care facility.

All 10 southern provinces have now confirmed at least one case.