The NWT tightened gathering restrictions on Tuesday in response to a growing territory-wide Covid-19 outbreak associated with the Omicron variant.
Until at least January 22, all households are now limited to five guests, to a maximum of 10 people in the home at a time. This removes a previous exemption that allowed up to 25 people if all were fully vaccinated.
High-risk indoor activities like dancing, singing, hand games, and contact sports are suspended, as are indoor winter sports. Bars and lounges must allow a maximum of six people per table with no mingling.
The territory’s chief public health officer, Dr Kami Kandola, said the measures – which appear in full in this PDF document – were necessary because more than 6,700 people were returning from travel between December 22 and January 9 according to the number of self-isolation plans filed.
Dr Kandola said approximately 200 new cases of Covid-19 had been recorded across the territory since New Year’s Eve, some linked to superspreader events at house parties.
“I understand that people are disappointed and frustrated with the ongoing restrictions,” said health minister Julie Green on Tuesday.
“These precautions will help reduce the strain on our healthcare system and avoid longer-term disruption.”
The chief public health officer said there were no current hospitalizations in the territory as a result of Covid-19.
Kandola, who restated her assumption that all new cases in the territory are now the Omicron variant, urged people to remain vigilant for at least three days following their return from travel.
“Most imported cases test positive for Covid-19 within 72 hours of arrival and spread mainly to the household and close contacts,” she said.
“This is why I continue to recommend people keep their circle small and reduce their activity for the first 72 hours after they return to the Northwest Territories.”
As of Friday, the NWT had reported 160 active Covid-19 cases in the territory, the majority in Yellowknife. Updated figures are expected later on Tuesday.
School reopening has been delayed by a week to January 10 in a bid to stem the spread of the virus as people return from holiday travel. Many court cases are also being pushed back to mid-February at the earliest, while some communities have initiated forms of lockdown or other restrictions.
“We do not have unlimited resources or people,” said Kandola.
“The people that we depend on have been working extremely hard for two years now. Every small act that reduces the chance of transmission supports them in the work they continue to do for our people.”
Three more flights were added to the NWT’s exposure list late on Monday.
Their details were given as Monday’s Air Canada flight 8773 from Calgary to Yellowknife, Sunday’s Canadian North flight 239 from Rankin Inlet to Yellowknife, and Wednesday, December 29’s Canadian North flight 244 from Edmonton to Yellowknife.