The Northwest Territories chief public health officer has announced indoor gatherings will now be allowed to have up to 200 people.
Starting Tuesday, Dr Kami Kandola said most gatherings and events will be able to increase size limits without an exemption. High-risk activities like funerals, celebrations of life, live music, indoor dancing, winter sports, and hand games, however, will have to seek special permission.
For those events, organizers and hosts will have to develop a plan with additional safety measures and get approval from the office of the chief public health officer before they can go ahead.
Dr Kandola has also removed the requirement for anyone employed or contracted at a work camp in the mineral or petroleum resource industry to socially distance for 14 days before they can travel to work.
“We continue to ease restrictions as it becomes safe to do so. Covid-19 will not be eliminated, but we are learning how to live with it safely,” Kandola said in a statement. “Let’s not get complacent. Now is the time for NWT residents to take responsibility and be aware of the risks of Covid-19. Please make sure you are informed and continue to use healthy habits.”
Until now, public indoor gatherings have been restricted to 25 people while private indoor gatherings were limited to household members plus five additional people, up to a maximum of 10 people. The new 200 person limit covers both public and private gatherings.
The new Emerging Wisely plan targeted 66 to 75 percent full or 75 percent partial vaccination coverage in the NWT for increasing limits on indoor gatherings. According to the territorial government’s latest published statistics, 72 percent of the population have been partially vaccinated while 66 percent are fully vaccinated.
All pandemic restrictions will be lifted once 75 percent of the territory’s population over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated and 66 to 75 percent of the entire territory are partially vaccinated. Kandola said that could be by mid to late fall.
Currently, Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for anyone aged 12 years and older, while the Moderna vaccine is approved for adults aged 18 and older. Dr AnneMarie Pegg, the NWT’s medical director, said that means youth born in 2009 can get the Pfizer vaccine in the territory, regardless of whether they’ve had their twelfth birthday yet.
Kandola said it’s anticipated that Pfizer will release its clinical trial results for children aged five to 11 in September. Once Health Canada approves the vaccine for that age group, she said the territory will roll out the vaccination plan for elementary school aged children.
Tuesday’s announcement is the territory’s latest step in easing pandemic restrictions that have been in place since the NWT moved to phase two of its initial pandemic recovery plan last June.
There are currently two active cases of Covid-19 in the territory, both in non-NWT resident workers, in Hay River and Yellowknife. The government said the individuals who tested positive in both cases and their contacts are isolating and doing well.