The NWT’s chief public health officer says residents could soon see fewer pandemic restrictions – but that doesn’t mean they should stop following public health precautions.
In a Wednesday news conference, Dr Kami Kandola said the territory is on track to begin phase two of its plan to reduce restrictions – dubbed Emerging Wisely – this month.
That could happen as soon as June 12, she said.
“By staying apart while standing together, we’ve contained this virus for now and we’re in a place where we can look forward to more freedom,” she said.
Phase two means more activities will be allowed in the territory, though Kandola cautioned that will increase the risk of Covid-19 potentially spreading.
“While our restrictions may be relaxing further, our vigilance cannot,” she said. “In fact, we need to redouble our commitment to keeping each other safe.”
That means keeping two metres apart from others, washing your hands, wearing face coverings when you can’t socially distance, and not sharing drinks or food with friends, Kandola explained.
If people don’t follow precautions, Kandola said, there could be a bigger wave of Covid-19 in the fall when people spend more time indoors. She noted many people are not wearing non-medical masks in public and she has seen outdoor gatherings where people are not socially distancing.
“This pandemic is not going to go away. It will be with us for at least the next two years,” she said.
“These types of practices need to be ingrained and summer is a good chance to practice it and make it a part of your routine.”
What will change in phase two?
So what can people expect when phase two does come into effect?
Kandola said the territory’s plan has changed little since it was introduced on May 12, but there will be updates like the inclusion of more organizations and scenarios.
Currently, the territory’s plan states phase two will allow for bigger gatherings, more sports, and the reopening of some businesses – including dining in at restaurants and the chance for movie theatres to open.
- Outdoor gatherings of 50 or fewer people will be allowed (up from 25 in phase one). That includes public events like community feasts and barbecues, outdoor bingo, and small concerts.
- Some indoor sports and day programming will be allowed, with a cap of 25 people.
- Outdoor tourism operators can accommodate a maximum of 50 people outside and 25 in vehicles.
- Movie and other theatres can open with reduced seating.
- Dine-in restaurants, including those with bars, can open with limited capacity. Nightclubs will stay closed.
- Gym classes can return with size limits.
- Government offices may open to the public with restrictions, including the offices of Indigenous governments and organizations.
- Community and youth centres can open with a limit of 50 people.
- Indoor faith gatherings can resume with a maximum of 25 people.
- Common areas of campgrounds can have a maximum of 50 people. Those sharing tents can follow the same rules as their friendship circle.
- Pools can open to train and certify staff.
Kandola said the NWT’s travel restrictions – including the requirement that people self-isolate for 14 days after entering the territory – will continue in phase two, calling it the “single most important risk measure.”
The NWT is, however, in discussions with Nunavut about creating a “bubble” that will allow for easier travel between the territories, she said.