Fully vaccinated people entering the Northwest Territories can isolate for a shorter period if they pass a Covid-19 test, the territory’s chief public health officer said on Wednesday.
Until now, almost anyone entering the NWT has been obliged to isolate for 14 days in a bid to contain the virus responsible for Covid-19. From now on, fully vaccinated travellers – both residents and non-residents – who reach their eighth day of isolation can take a Covid-19 test and won’t have to keep isolating if that comes back negative.
After a negative test, you will still have to self-monitor and wear a mask, the territorial government said. The test turnaround time is currently expected to be around 24 hours.
The territory said “existing exemption criteria” still apply to non-resident travellers, meaning you still need to meet the NWT’s criteria for entry. If you’re travelling with someone who isn’t fully vaccinated, you can’t take advantage of the new rules. That includes people who travelled with children and are isolating with them, as people under 18 aren’t yet eligible for vaccination.
“This change reflects the protection provided by vaccines and I encourage all eligible adults to get vaccinated,” Premier Caroline Cochrane said.
The NWT is also allowing some tourists to return. This summer, tour operators in remote parts of the territory can apply to have visiting tourists isolate on-location.
Operators “must demonstrate that they can carry out business with no, or very minimal, contact between travellers and NWT residents who are not employees,” a territorial government news release stated.
Cochrane said the changes were being announced now “to allow tourism operators the time to plan” and minimize contact with other residents and communities, adding it would provide “an opportunity for economic recovery after what has been a very difficult year.”
The territory said remote operators were defined as those that are “able to provide a fully self-contained tour experience where clients, staff and workers do not have to rely on commercial accommodation or food services within an NWT community, except while in transit.”
NWT Tourism’s Donna Lee Demarcke said she was “very grateful” that the announcement would allow some 60 remote operators to reopen in some form.
“This pandemic is not over here until it is over everywhere else,” said Dr Kami Kandola, the NWT’s chief public health officer. “We as a country are in this together. That is why we must continue to ease restrictions with a measured, step-by-step approach that follows the science.
“Today’s announcements may seem like small steps to some, but we are still moving forward.”
The territory is expected to release a broader set of revisions to its Emerging Wisely pandemic recovery plan early in May.
How that will further change the NWT’s Covid-19 restrictions remains to be seen. The next phase of recovery, when it is triggered, is currently set to allow outdoor gatherings of unlimited size if certain health precautions are in place. Dr Kandola said on Wednesday that was likely to remain the next change ahead.
At the moment, the territory has two confirmed Covid-19 cases in Fort Smith and has embarked on a testing campaign in Yellowknife after samples of the city’s sewage suggested there is at least one undetected case in the city.
Sixty-three percent of the NWT’s eligible adults have received at least one dose of Moderna’s vaccine against the virus responsible for Covid-19, the territory said on Wednesday. About half of the territory’s eligible adults have received both doses and are considered fully vaccinated.
The territory says it now has “no specific target” for vaccinations after its health minister had previously suggested vaccinating 75 percent of eligible adults would trigger the loosening of some restrictions.