Vaccination rates across Canada have effectively reached the milestone required to trigger a further reopening of the Northwest Territories to travel, new data shows.
However, the territory itself has not reached the full vaccination rate required in its reopening plan for everyone to be able to enter the NWT, regardless of their reason for travel.
At the moment, NWT residents who are fully vaccinated can come and go without isolating on their return (with some exceptions, such as if travelling with unvaccinated children). People from elsewhere in Canada or the world cannot currently enter the territory unless they have an approved reason for doing so.
That means most tourists can’t currently come to the territory, with the exception of those heading to remote locations – such as lodges – that have specific, approved measures in place.
In general terms, the next stage of the NWT’s Emerging Wisely reopening plan allows anyone to enter the territory for any reason and lets fully vaccinated travellers do so without isolating.
For that stage to be activated, three things must happen:
- Across Canada, at least 66 percent of people aged 18 or over must be fully vaccinated. New federal data released on Friday shows that as of July 24, Canada was well within one percent of reaching this mark and had made a five-percent gain week on week, suggesting the country would have surpassed the mark by July 30.
- Across Canada, the seven-day average for the daily count of new Covid-19 cases must be under 1,000. On Thursday, Canada reported 895 new cases. The seven-day average is currently a little lower than that, but gradually increasing.
- In the NWT, 75 percent of people aged 18 or over must be fully vaccinated. That figure stood at 71 percent as of this week, an increase of four percent since late June.
If Canada keeps its seven-day average for new cases per day below 1,000, and the NWT continues to fully vaccinate residents at roughly the present rate, the next reopening stage looks likely to be triggered in late August. That tallies with the NWT chief public health officer’s June prediction that the ability for anyone to enter the territory, for any reason, would be granted by late summer or early fall.
When that change happens, all travellers entering the NWT will have to follow the same isolation requirements as residents. That’s likely to mean no isolation if everyone is fully vaccinated, eight days for those partly vaccinated, and 10 days for the unvaccinated (or family members who travelled with unvaccinated children).
International travellers will need to follow federal regulations related to quarantine, and you’ll still need to file self-isolation plans for contact tracing or to help a rapid response by public health to any outbreak.
Delta’s impact may be still to come
Since the updated Emerging Wisely was published in June, scientists have continued to study newer variants of the virus that causes Covid-19, in particular the Delta variant, which is much more contagious than other known versions.
On Friday, the New York Times – reporting research by American government agencies – said fully vaccinated people may, in some instances, spread the Delta variant to others just as easily as unvaccinated people.
The vaccine still serves a major purpose: if you’re vaccinated, you remain powerfully protected against serious illness or death from the Delta variant. Fully vaccinated people also appear to spread the Delta variant to a far lesser degree than the unvaccinated, but at a level significant enough to give scientists pause.
An internal memo at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called on agency leaders to acknowledge that “the war has changed” and the Delta variant now requires the same level of masking and other public health precautions seen at the pandemic’s earlier height.
However, the Delta variant’s impact has been less pronounced in other nations, such as the United Kingdom, where different vaccination strategies have been used.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr Theresa Tam, on Friday said the country was in a “slightly precarious period.”
Dr Tam said getting Canada’s residents aged 18 to 39 from 70-percent vaccinated to 80 percent would “significantly reduce the size and impact of the resurgence,” and urged a “cautious approach” to reopening the nation.