The NWT’s chief public health officer wants residents to cancel all gatherings, “regardless of size or number of participants,” effective immediately.
The message came in a public health advisory issued on Sunday morning. It doesn’t matter whether the gathering is inside or outside. Festivals, bingos, religious services, community centres, and recreation centres are all included, alongside any other gathering.
This includes informal gatherings like house parties.
The chief public health officer is also asking a wide range of businesses to shut down in a bid to slow the spread of the Covid-19 disease.
Those businesses include gyms, bars and nightclubs, buffet-style restaurants, theatres, all forms of salon including barbers, and bottle depots.
The NWT government later on Sunday added tour operators to that list. There have been concerns that a few tourism businesses continued to operate in the past week.
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The fresh advisory came a day after the NWT formally closed its borders to most people other than residents. The territory’s first confirmed case of Covid-19 was identified on Friday night and is in isolation while Public Health staff trace people who may have been in contact with them.
Many Yellowknife bars and restaurants have already closed or drastically altered their operations, switching to takeout only.
The city’s Kilt and Castle pub, which has continued to open, earlier this week posted a since-deleted statement reading in part: “For now, there is no justification for the panic that is mortgaging the future of this town and the country as a whole.”
Bob Stewart, who operates the Kilt and Castle, told Cabin Radio: “If there’s an outbreak in Yellowknife, I’ll close. I’m open to discussing this thing with people who are actually authorities.
“I just got inspected yesterday, and the inspector said everything was great.”
As of Sunday morning, the number of positive tests in the NWT was unchanged. There were 370 confirmed negative tests in the territory. The number of tests still being analyzed is unknown.
Why gatherings are asked to cancel
Dr Kami Kandola, the chief public health officer, urged people on Sunday to keep social distancing going – a minimum of two metres away from anyone else – to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease.
The reason for cancelling gatherings of any size, she said, was to cut out any opportunity for the virus to spread in places where social distancing is harder to achieve. Cancelling gatherings will also protect employees like bar workers, who cannot maintain a two-metre distance and still do their jobs.
Essential supply services like grocery stores, gas stations, and convenience stores can remain open. Those stores have put in place all the protective measures they can and are asked to try to enforce two-metre separation at all times. Shoppers need to do their part to respect those measures.
“Taking action to limit gatherings and these business operations will help protect all Northwest Territories residents,” read the advisory from the chief public health officer, “especially the elderly and other vulnerable populations.”
What businesses need to know
If your business is a gym, bar or club, buffet-style restaurant, theatre, or salon (ranging from nail salons to hair salons), or a bottle depots, you are being asked to close until further notice.
Those businesses “cannot operate and provide for the two-metre separation required to be safe,” said the chief public health officer.
“Other essential businesses should wherever possible limit face-to-face meeting and contact of any kind,” Sunday’s advisory states.
That means banks, pharmacies, liquor stores, restaurants and pubs serving food, and coffee shops should enforce a two-metre distance at all times wherever possible, and increase hand-washing and use hand sanitizer with at least 60-percent alcohol content.
If you need advice about your business or an event or gathering, email firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. Include your community, phone number, and brief details of your query. That address is monitored from 8:30am until 5pm on weekdays.
Correction: March 22, 2020 – 13:07 MT. This article initially stated the Kilt and Castle pub in Yellowknife had at one point issued a statement complaining about restrictions in place to combat Covid-19. In fact, operator Bob Stewart said, his message related to his perception of panic in the community and not the restrictions themselves.