Coronavirus

Non-essential GNWT staff asked to join territory’s Covid-19 fight


The NWT government has written to non-essential staff working from home, asking them to consider accepting reassignment to positions helping the Covid-19 fight.

The territory currently has one confirmed case of Covid-19, identified late last Friday. A range of restrictive measures are in place to try to contain the virus, and the NWT continues to urgently step up preparations for a potential surge in cases.

“GNWT employees who are in non-essential positions have been asked to identify their interest in being reassigned to support Covid-19 response activities,” the territorial government announced on Tuesday.

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Employees can fill out a form (accessible to GNWT staff only) to indicate they are prepared to be reassigned.

Last week, the territory’s top medical officials said they were trying to move staff into new positions helping with phone lines and administrative tasks, freeing up front-line staff to deliver vital services.

More: NWT government coronavirus information

“Once you have identified yourself as interested, the Department of Finance will work with your manager or supervisor to confirm your home position is non-essential and you are available to be reassigned,” read a message from the NWT government to staff.

“Any employee who is reassigned will continue to receive the pay and benefits of their home position. The terms and conditions of employment attached to your home position remain unchanged. Any required and approved overtime will be paid at the applicable overtime rates.”

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As another means of boosting numbers, healthcare professionals returning to the NWT are exempt from the chief public health officer’s mandatory self-isolation order. They are instead told to self-monitor and immediately isolate if any symptoms of the virus develop.

A drive-through Covid-19 testing clinic in Yellowknife fully opened to the public on Tuesday, allowing residents with symptoms to receive a check-up and nasal swab without leaving their vehicle.

The World Health Organization has said testing is crucial to containing the spread of the virus, but the number of tests Canada can process is limited. NWT swabs are sent to Alberta for analysis – the wait time for results is approximately a week.

In effect, that means the NWT’s current testing numbers (one positive, 482 negative, 176 pending) are a more accurate reflection of the situation this time last week than they are of the present picture.

Summer student program on hold

Federal chief public health officer Dr Theresa Tam said this week almost half of cases studied across Canada now appear to be the result of “community spread” – in other words, cases that can’t be traced back to travel or exposure to someone else with Covid-19.

Tam said that’s a significant shift. It means the virus is spreading in ways the Canadian government doesn’t fully understand and is struggling to readily prevent.

The NWT government said on Tuesday: “Every single one of us must be keeping physical distance in everything we do – about six feet – avoiding large gatherings, washing our hands tons with soap and water or hand sanitizer, not touching our faces or eyes, and staying home if we’re sick.

“We need to be doing this 100 percent of the time, no matter where we are, if we’re going to limit the spread of this virus.”

As territorial government resources are thrown at the coronavirus pandemic, other programs are being placed on hold.

The NWT government’s popular summer student program, a source of income for many young NWT residents, is suspended. A statement on the program’s website urges people to email summerstudents@gov.nt.ca if they have questions about their application and expect a delayed response time.

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