The NWT government says Covid-19 rapid tests will soon be available to people entering the territory by highway, as well as those landing at Yellowknife and Inuvik airports.
Currently, rapid tests aren’t available at the territory’s land borders. Officials previously said the tests could not be allowed to freeze and so could not be stored at the border in the dead of winter.
On Friday evening, the territorial government suggested that problem had been overcome as it announced rapid test kits will be distributed at points of entry beginning this weekend and early next week.
Each kit includes five tests. Border officers will hand out at least one box per vehicle, or more if needed to ensure each occupant has two tests available to them.
The Highway 1 entry point from Alberta will have tests available from the morning of Saturday, January 8, the territory said. The Dempster Highway border with the Yukon will have tests from Sunday, January 9 “or as soon as weather and logistics allow.”
Highway 7 between the Dehcho and British Columbia, which only opens to inbound traffic at certain times each week, will offer tests from its next scheduled opening on Tuesday, January 11.
Last week, the NWT temporarily ran out of rapid tests at its two largest airports, a problem officials said had been solved earlier this week.
Dr Kami Kandola, the NWT’s chief public health officer, said “an individual” had been responsible for helping the territory access more rapid tests, but did not specify whom. The NWT government’s Covid-19 Secretariat did not respond to a follow-up email on Wednesday regarding that person’s identity.
Meanwhile, the territory asked for patience from anyone calling its Protect NWT 8-1-1 hotline.
Saying almost 500 daily calls were coming in, up from a prior average of around 285, the territory said waiting times had increased to 12 minutes earlier this week.
“Protect NWT is working to provide alternative arrangements for staff so they can safely and quickly continue to provide required services,” the territory said, referring to workers who had themselves been “impacted by Covid-19.”