Some COVID-19 restrictions lift in the N.W.T., starting now

The Northwest Territories is entering the first phase of its COVID-19 recovery plan.

According to a news release Friday, effective immediately, the government is allowing people to enjoy more interpersonal contact with others as part of its "Emerging Wisely" plan. There has been no community spread of the disease for 28 days since the last negative COVID-19 test was collected for the final recovered case.

"The health and safety of N.W.T. residents is our main priority," stated Premier Caroline Cochrane in the news release.

"We aren't out of the woods yet, and as we head into the long weekend, I urge all residents to remember that we need to work together to keep COVID-19 out of the N.W.T.," she said.

The new rules affect indoor and outdoor gatherings, as well as some businesses.

Indoor visitation

Every household is now allowed up to five people they do not live with to enter their homes. There cannot be more than 10 people in one home at a time.

The government recommends people keep to a small circle of friends. They suggest a "fave five" of regular contacts.

This means inviting the same five people into your home, rather than a many groups of five different people. That circle of friends can be wider in the outdoors, provided you stay two metres apart from one another.

The government suggests each person in their household select one person they want to have over regularly. They also suggest picking one other household you want to gather with regularly as a way to keep your circle small.

The territorial government still recommends keeping a distance of two metres in your house.

If your visitors are older or have an existing illness or weak immune system, they recommend having no visitors while that person is in your house.

Outdoor gatherings

Outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people are permitted as long as people maintain physical distance. This permits some sports clubs and organizations to reopen. Rugby is not allowed.

Some mass gatherings will be permitted, including farmers markets, and some recreational facilities could open, including libraries, golf courses, beaches, boat launches, and playgrounds.

Recreational facilities like outdoor kitchen shelters and day-use areas in parks will also be able to open. Overnight camping is still not allowed at private or publicly owned campgrounds. This will be permitted once the territory enters the second part of its recovery program.

The orders restricting travel, essential workers, and industry remain. This requires keeping a physical distance of two metres, and for those who feel sick to not participate in activities.

Businesses and organizations

Some businesses and organizations are allowed to open with the new rules. This includes personal service establishments, massage therapy clinics, chiropractors, museums and art galleries. They are only permitted to operate if they have public health measures in place.

Cochrane said that although some restrictions are lifting, it is still important to follow the measures issued by the chief public health officer.

Health minister Diane Thom said it was "exciting" news that phase one of its Emerging Wisely Plan is starting.

"I hope residents across the territory enjoy time with friends and family this weekend that you maybe haven't been able to see in some time," she said.

Thom reminded people that the N.W.T. government's compliance and enforcement team will keep investigating reports of non-compliance.

"Now, more than ever, we need to work together to keep each other safe," she said.