NWT health officials say they’re “optimistic” that a containment order in Fort Liard, intended to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the hamlet, will be lifted later this week.
After Fort Liard’s first case of Covid-19 was identified on January 16, the territorial government banned all gatherings and shut down the community’s non-essential businesses and facilities.
That containment order automatically ends on January 30 at 10pm unless it’s extended.
“Based on the response to date, and based on our containment of known cases and no further transmission to our close contacts – which we continue to monitor – I’m optimistic that I don’t need to extend it,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola told reporters on Wednesday.
Since the first case was discovered, five more positive cases have been confirmed in Fort Liard. No new cases have been announced since January 18 and one patient has been declared recovered.
“There are no new diagnoses in this past week and that’s thanks to the aggressive contract tracing and testing by the rapid response team,” Kandola said.
“We are cautiously optimistic that the swift, early local health response will succeed in keeping the Covid-19 risk at bay in Fort Liard, and we have an entire community to thank for that.”
The territorial government last week launched a campaign titled Dear Fort Liard in partnership with CKLB, the only FM radio station broadcasting in the community, for residents to share messages of support with the hamlet.
A ‘bullet dodged’
On Wednesday, Kandola said public health staff had still not been able to identify the source of a positive case of Covid-19 in Yellowknife. However, there remains no indication of broader Covid-19 transmission in the city.
“If there are no further indications of wider transmission in the next week, we can consider this a bullet dodged,” she said.
On January 15, the government said an individual had tested positive for Covid-19 in Yellowknife but had neither travelled outside the territory nor had contact with someone else who tested positive.
It is the first and only case of Covid-19 reported in the NWT with no known connection to travel.
‘This is an incredible achievement’
Finally, Kandola praised the territory’s ongoing vaccination campaign.
The territory’s latest numbers indicate 9,471 residents have received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
Officials say by the end of this week, first doses will have been administered to at least some residents in all of the territory’s 33 communities.
“This is an incredible achievement,” Kandola said.
“We’re incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to reach immunity in the North much sooner than others.”
Dr AnneMarie Pegg, the NWT’s medical director, acknowledged there may be people who didn’t get vaccinated during this first round of clinics – either because they decided to wait or due to a lack of appointments.
She said everyone who is eligible will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by the end of March.
Later this week, residents and staff at long-term care facilities – the first people in the NWT to receive the initial dose of the vaccine – will start being offered their second dose.
“I hope this focus on protecting our most vulnerable brings comfort to families across the North,” Kandola said.
Correction: January 27, 2021 – 17:07 MT. This article initially stated that 11,872 residents had received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine. In fact, 9,471 residents have been vaccinated, while 11,872 tests for Covid-19 have been completed in the NWT.