The NWT’s chief public health officer confirmed the territory is now in phase one of its pandemic recovery plan, which sees some restrictions ease.
Dr Kami Kandola gave the go-ahead at 2pm on Friday. The territory warned that enforcement officers would still be patrolling over the long weekend to ensure remaining restrictions are obeyed.
“We aren’t out of the woods yet and, as we head into the long weekend, I urge all residents to remember that we need to work together to keep Covid-19 out of the NWT,” said Premier Caroline Cochrane in a statement.
“Please follow the measures in place.”
The loosened restrictions are formalized in a new public health order published by the territorial government on Friday.
Kandola on Thursday told CBC North’s Trailbreaker she was “in the final stages” of reviewing the order, which rolls back what had been “aggressive containment.”
“If the changes are accepted by legal, we should be ready by Friday – but that has not yet been finalized,” Kandola said.
Phase one of the NWT’s recovery plan, revealed earlier this week, could only start when Kandola gave the all-clear.
“We’ve been getting pressure from residents of the Northwest Territories to come up with something and the sooner, the better,” said health minister Diane Thom on Tuesday.
“Friday’s a good day. It’s May long weekend. People are normally getting ready, getting prepared. [The announcement] is good timing.”
Phase one does not allow overnight camping in recognized campgrounds this weekend. Camping both at territorial and private campgrounds will not be permissible until phase two of the plan, expected in mid-to-late June, Kandola said this week.
Day-use areas can be used from phase one.
What’ll happen in phase one?
Instead, the big changes in phase one are the introduction of home visits among friends, an increase in the maximum size of outdoor gatherings, and the reopening of some types of business.
Now that phase one has begun, households can have up to five friends visit (to a maximum of 10 people in the house).
“We are introducing the concept of friendship circles to keep these circles as small as possible and, where possible, still try to keep physical distance indoors,” Kandola told the CBC on Thursday.
Outdoor gatherings have gone from a maximum of 10 people to 25, though they must all remain distanced.
Some businesses, like hair salons, museums, and bottle depots, can open in phase one as long as they have workplace risk assessments and other measures in place. A full list of measures each type of business requires is contained in the appendix to the NWT’s plan.
Most, if not at all affected businesses were planning to stay closed beyond Friday as there are various hurdles to cross before the required measures can be implemented.
Lastly, a few types of mass gathering – like farmers’ markets – can now be held, although again they must have restrictions in place to keep people apart and safe. A range of outdoor sports can go ahead with a limit of 25 participants or fewer, including spectators.