“Look at the facts and remember our history,” the NWT’s chief public health officer cautioned on Tuesday as she told residents not to expect the easing of restrictions any time soon.
The Northwest Territories has not had any active Covid-19 cases since Monday, when two patients were declared recovered, meaning all five people who initially tested positive for the disease in the NWT are now considered out of danger.
The lack of cases has led some residents to ask when restrictions aimed at preventing community spread of the disease, like a ban on indoor gatherings, will be lifted.
In a statement emailed to Cabin Radio, Dr Kami Kandola said that while the current, severe restrictions “cannot remain forever,” nor will there be any immediate let-up.
“We need to be very deliberate in how we weigh all of the evidence – infection rates, deaths, regional outbreaks, transmission dynamics, growing worries [about] asymptomatic spread, and rapidly evolving research we are getting all the time,” the NWT’s chief public health officer wrote.
Loosening restrictions would happen “only where it makes the most sense,” she said, giving no further detail about where that might be. Dr Kandola has previously said the introduction of new, one-hour Covid-19 tests, expected in the coming weeks, could allow her to slowly ease restrictions in some parts of the NWT.
Premier Caroline Cochrane told Cabin Radio’s Covid Corner on Tuesday evening: “Right now, we’re not planning on ramping down our restrictions.
“Research across the world is now showing we’re looking at a second wave of Covid-19 coming through and probably even a third wave.
“I really hate to say it: people still have to be diligent. It is just not over yet.”
More detail ‘in the coming week’
While many residents have expressed support for Kandola’s public health orders and cheered the drop in active cases over recent days, others have called for a public plan that provides certainty regarding specific milestones that must be hit for restrictions to be eased.
“We are formulating a plan for moving forward with all the information we have, and will be speaking in greater detail in the coming week,” Kandola said on Tuesday.
Premier Cochrane told Cabin Radio Kandola would be “diligently watching the World Health Organization research around the world.”
“My understanding is, when the curve across Canada starts to flatten, at that point we can start looking at what are the restrictions,” Cochrane said.
Elaborating on the concern that second and third waves of Covid-19 can be expected in the months ahead, Kandola wrote: “We know from history, those additional waves are often more deadly and widespread than the first.
“So even if Canada’s first curve flattens, we are far from through this.
“The fact is the biggest risk to our territory is the situation across Canada. Right now, Canada’s cases continue to grow significantly each day in spite of testing rates far lower than our own.
“The only way for us to keep our territory in containment through three waves across Canada is to be very careful in how we manage our response over this time.”
More than 1,600 NWT tests to date
The NWT’s first Covid-19 case was identified on March 20. By April 6, there were four active cases while a fifth had recovered.
As of April 20, all five had recovered.
The NWT had administered 1,611 Covid-19 tests as of Tuesday. Five came back positive, 1,588 were negative, and 18 are pending.
That gives the territory a rate of 3,588 tests per 100,000 population, according to statistics collated by the Globe and Mail newspaper.
Even allowing for the fact that smaller populations can sometimes skew data related to rates, the NWT’s rate of testing per capita is almost 50 percent higher than anywhere else in Canada.
Alberta, second in the table, is testing 2,470 of every 100,000. Ontario’s rate is 1,184 per 100,000.