Coronavirus

NWT ends state of emergency, one tool to cope with pandemic


The NWT government on Tuesday lifted a territory-wide state of emergency after 15 weeks, while extending a separate public health emergency for the eighth time.

The territory said the state of emergency was declared early in the pandemic to allow “extraordinary steps” to support public health orders – but those additional powers have not been used, and Covid-19 can be managed under the public health emergency alone.

The territory said it is prepared to re-enact the state of emergency if needed, for example if community spread of Covid-19 occurs in the NWT. 

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Minister of Health and Social Services Diane Thom extended the public health emergency, a news release said, as new cases of Covid-19 continue to be reported elsewhere in Canada and measures are still necessary to protect NWT residents. 

Though the state of emergency has ended, there will be no change to the restrictions in place. All travel restrictions and public health measures remain the same.

Everyone entering the NWT remains required to self-isolate for 14 days in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River, or Fort Smith, save for a few documented exceptions. Residents are still required to follow public health orders, the territory said.

An NWT-wide state of emergency and a public health emergency sound similar but are different things.

During a public health emergency, the territory’s chief public health officer has expanded powers. They include the ability to make orders restricting or prohibiting travel within the NWT; appoint deputy chief public health officers; and establish a voluntary immunization program within the territory.

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A state of emergency, by contrast, hands additional powers to the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs (currently Premier Caroline Cochrane). Those powers include the ability to compel communities to take certain steps.

The territory’s first-ever state of emergency was declared on March 24. The public health emergency had been declared a week earlier, on March 18.

There have been five confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the territory. They were all declared recovered by April 20.

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