The N.W.T. government intends to launch a voluntary vaccine passport program on Oct. 22 that will allow non-essential businesses and organizations in Yellowknife, Dettah and Ndilǫ and Behchokǫ̀, including restaurants and bars, to have more people in their establishments.
"Non-essential businesses and organizations that choose to use it can increase capacity limits by verifying the vaccination status of their clients," said Dr. Kami Kandola, the N.W.T.'s chief public health officer, at a Thursday news conference. She described it as a "proof of vaccination program."
Customers will have to be fully vaccinated and show proof of that vaccination.
Premier Cochrane said proof could be shown with the old paper form the territory gave to residents when they got vaccinated, or the new digital version that was launched by the territorial government Tuesday.
Kandola said COVID-19 cases in the territory peaked last week and have trended downward since. The N.W.T. hit a peak of 460 active cases last Thursday. Yesterday, the territory reported 356 cases.
Kandola said she expects the trend to continue and, as long as it does, she will issue a territory-wide public health order on Oct. 22 outlining how the vaccine passport can be used by non-essential businesses and organizations to increase their capacity.
At the same time, a new N.W.T. public health order will come into effect limiting indoor gatherings to 25 people, and outdoor gatherings to 50. The proof of vaccine program would allow for gatherings of up to 100 indoors, and 200 outdoors.
Missed the news conference? Watch it here:
Current public health orders extended
More than 90 per cent of the cases in the territory are in the Yellowknife area — including Dettah and Ndilǫ — and in Behchokǫ, where additional public health measures are in place to contain the spread of the disease.
Kandola said she is extending those public health measures — the gathering restrictions in Yellowknife, Dettah and Ndilǫ as well as the containment order for Behchokǫ̀ — until Oct. 22 at 5 p.m.
She said if the territory were to reopen too early, it risks losing all the gains it's made in the past few days.
Kandola said she continues to recommend that businesses accommodate working from home in these communities through to the end of the extension, "so that there's less opportunity for the virus to regain momentum."
Schools to reopen Oct. 25
Kandola said if the downward trend in cases continues, she expects she'll allow schools in Yellowknife, Dettah, Ndilǫ and Behchokǫ̀ to reopen on Oct. 25.
"We are continuing to monitor the situation in other regions," said Kandola.
She added that her office hasn't closed any other school in the territory but has recommended that grades 10 and 11 be assessed at a Hay River high school because of a localized outbreak.