Anyone entering the NWT via Yellowknife or Inuvik airports will now receive a take-home Covid-19 rapid test kit.
Rapid tests, increasingly prevalent elsewhere in Canada and beyond, have so far not become a feature of everyday life for many NWT residents. Each kit being made available in the territory will contain five tests.
Travellers will be asked to use one test on the day they arrive in the NWT and another three days later, continuing a push for people to treat extremely seriously their first 72 hours in the territory following travel elsewhere.
Yellowknife’s airport began offering the kits on Tuesday. They will be distributed at Inuvik’s airport from Wednesday.
“It is expected that new cases of Covid-19 will enter the NWT over the holidays. Making these tests available is a way to screen for those new cases early,” the territorial government said in a news release.
“The Omicron variant is becoming the dominant strain of Covid-19 in Canada. Evidence indicates that it has a shorter incubation period than the Delta variant. Therefore testing, along with limiting contact for the first 72 hours after returning from travel, will assist in preventing Covid-19 spread during and after the holidays.”
There remains one case of the Omicron variant so far identified in the territory, according to the GNWT’s Covid-19 dashboard.
Julie Green, the NWT’s health minister, said the tests will not be offered at land borders as they cannot be frozen.
The tests being distributed are BTNX rapid tests, commonly used elsewhere in Canada. (Ontario Health has produced a guide to using them.) They deliver results in 15 minutes.
The territory cautioned that like any rapid tests, the BTNX tests may occasionally return false negatives – meaning the test indicates no virus is present when, in fact, someone is infected.
“It is extremely important that people using these tests do not become complacent when it comes to monitoring for symptoms,” said Dr Kami Kandola, the territory’s chief public health officer, in a statement.
“It is also more important now to ask yourself every day: ‘How do I feel?’ and run through a checklist of symptoms that you may not pay attention to without putting in that conscious effort.”