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Q&A: What changed with isolation in the NWT?

Premier Caroline Cochrane addresses reporters on April 21, 2021
Premier Caroline Cochrane addresses reporters on April 21, 2021. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

If you’re fully vaccinated, there are now some circumstances in which you don’t need to isolate for the full 14 days on entering the Northwest Territories.

However, there is plenty of complexity behind that statement. Things change depending on various factors, such as whether you’re a resident or non-resident and whether you’re travelling with children aged under 18. (Read the GNWT’s explanation in full here.)

Meanwhile, the NWT also announced some tourists can now visit the territory this summer – if they’re heading to a remote tour operator where they won’t come into contact with an NWT community, apart from when in transit. Again, the precise rules around that are more complicated (and set out by the GNWT here).

On this page, we’ve answered some of the more common questions asked by people during our live coverage of Wednesday’s announcement. You can read our full report on the announcement itself here.



Vaccination, isolation and kids

The basic change is that if you’re fully vaccinated, you can take a Covid-19 test after eight days of isolation and, if that comes back negative, you can stop isolating. You still need to self-monitor and wear a mask till the 14 days is up, though.

So no matter what, you’re still doing eight days of isolation on entry or re-entry into the NWT, unless you have one of the exemptions that already exist (such as for some types of essential healthcare worker).

However, things get complicated if you’re travelling with children. The vaccine isn’t yet available to anyone aged under 18 – that’s a federal decision based on manufacturer guidance, and isn’t really the NWT’s call – so children cannot yet be fully vaccinated.

If you and your kids come into the NWT from somewhere else, and they isolate with you, everyone has to do the full 14 days. No test for you after eight days, even if you’re a fully vaccinated adult. You have to operate to the kids’ schedule, which is the full 14 days.



“If a person who is not fully vaccinated returns to the NWT from outside the territory, the whole household must follow the existing public health measures (entire household must self-isolate for 14 days),” the territorial government wrote in a briefing document. “All individuals of the household must follow these measures regardless of their vaccination status.”

However, if you were the one who travelled but your kids did not travel, things are different.

In that scenario, assuming you are fully vaccinated, you can get your test after eight days and if it’s negative, you and the kids can stop isolating. (Remember, the kids would have had to isolate with you for days one through eight since they’re household members, and the whole household must isolate if one person is.)

I’m a non-resident. Can I come to the NWT now?

If you could come last week, you can come now. The actual rules for non-residents travelling within the NWT haven’t changed. If you meet the criteria on this page and are told you can come, yes, you can come.

The criteria for entry have not changed. Only your isolation time changes. If you are a fully vaccinated non-resident who’s allowed to travel within the NWT, you can get out after eight days if your test comes back negative. (Same rules as above apply if you have kids with you, though.)

Having said that, the NWT’s other announcement on Wednesday was allowing tour operators in remote locations to begin welcoming tourists again. So the entry criteria will change to allow entry to certain tourists (and they don’t need to be fully vaccinated according to the GNWT) – but that won’t start to happen for a little while because operators must have plans approved by the GNWT before reopening. Tourists must remain away from communities unless in transit.

How do I prove I’m fully vaccinated?

Let’s start with what fully vaccinated actually means.

The GNWT says to be considered fully vaccinated, you have to have had all recommended doses of your vaccine and two weeks must have passed since your last dose.



In other words, if your vaccine is the Moderna vaccine, you are fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose. If your vaccine was a one-shot vaccine like that made by Johnson & Johnson, you’re fully vaccinated two weeks after you got that shot.

Now, how to prove you’re fully vaccinated.

If you’re an NWT resident, your electronic medical record will be checked when you go for your Covid-19 test on day eight. They’ll automatically be able to see when you got your second shot and do the math. (You don’t need to request a copy of your immunization record first. If you do want a copy of that for another reason, though, there are instructions here.)

If you’re coming from outside the NWT, you need to provide whatever proof of vaccination your jurisdiction offers.

If the whole household is fully vaccinated, then what?

You, the fully vaccinated traveller, still isolate for the minimum eight days then get your test. Your household members, though, if they’re all fully vaccinated too, don’t need to isolate with you. If you start showing symptoms of Covid-19, they should isolate immediately and you should collectively contact your health centre.

Day eight, negative test. So… freedom, right?

Ehhh kinda. You can stop isolating once you get that negative test. But you still need to do some stuff until you hit day 14.

You still need to monitor for symptoms, and that still includes completing GNWT symptom checks on day 10 and day 14 (same as if you were isolating that whole time).

You also need to wear a mask “at all times when indoors (unless eating or drinking) and outdoors when you cannot keep a physical distance of two metres,” the territorial government says. The advice doesn’t specify whether “indoors” includes your home, though it’s hard to imagine that’s the intent.



Well this sucks for parents

It ain’t great – if you travel with kids, basically you can forget the day-eight thing entirely – but the territory argued it’s trying to make whatever progress it can while sticking to the same basic principles designed to keep residents safe.

“This is a step-by-step, careful approach to ending restrictions eventually for all, while doing everything we can to reduce the risk of Covid-19 in the NWT,” the territory said in a statement.

Weren’t we supposed to hear about gatherings?

The GNWT didn’t help itself by spending weeks suggesting it was revamping Emerging Wisely – its big pandemic recovery plan – then sliding this announcement in first. This is not that.

Wednesday’s announcement deals with stuff that’s related, of course, but it isn’t the same as the review of Emerging Wisely that the territory still expects to complete by the end of this month or early May.

Once that’s done, that’s when you can expect changes to things that weren’t mentioned on Wednesday like gathering limits. The NWT has indicated outdoor gathering limits are likely to be increased or done away with in the near-ish future.