'Preliminary easing' of COVID-19 restrictions in N.W.T. expected by end of April

·3 min read
N.W.T's Chief Public Health Officer Kami Kandola said the review of the re-opening plan would take into account the third wave of the pandemic, variants of concern and the speed of the vaccination roll out in the N.W.T. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC - image credit)
N.W.T's Chief Public Health Officer Kami Kandola said the review of the re-opening plan would take into account the third wave of the pandemic, variants of concern and the speed of the vaccination roll out in the N.W.T. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC - image credit)

The N.W.T.'s chief public health officer hinted at "preliminary easing" of COVID-19 restrictions in the territory toward the end of April.

Dr. Kami Kandola committed to a review of the territory's re-opening plan during a pandemic update Thursday. She said the initial plan, dubbed "Emerging Wisely" was released last May and a lot has changed since then.

The review, she said, would take into account the third wave of the pandemic, variants of concern and the speed of the vaccination roll out in the N.W.T.

"That new knowledge will shape our path forward and, because we'll continue to learn more about this virus, it means we'll have to be flexible, patient and measured in our approach."

Residents can expect to see changes related to less riskier activities first, said Dr. Kandola. However, none of the changes have been officially announced yet.

"Next week we'll be releasing some information about preliminary orders and after that we're currently working on phase three relaxing measures."

Missed the update? Watch it here:

Outdoor gatherings like Folk on the Rocks, she added, have less risk than indoor events "so we're currently reviewing them on an exception basis, based on mitigation plans."

The territory is still under phase two of its re-opening plan, which includes a ban on outdoor concerts, limits on social gatherings and restrictions on outdoor tourism operators.

Variants pose real risk

The past three cases of COVID-19 in the N.W.T. have all been confirmed as cases of the B117 variant first detected in the U.K.

Two, which are not counted in the territory's database because they're mine workers from other jurisdictions, are at the Diavik Diamond Mine about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.

Another is an N.W.T. resident, whose infection was first reported Monday, was linked to international travel said Dr. Kandola's office.

Three of their close contacts are self-isolating, said public health.

"Evidence gathered to date is concerning," said Kandola. "Each COVID-19 infection from a variant will spread to more people than the original virus."

They also cause more severe infections in young people, she said.

"We can't let variants gain a foothold in the N.W.T. Our importation risk is real, and increasing right now with COVID-19 infections soaring across the country."

How to get vaccinated, once touring clinics end

Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, the territory's medical director, said Thursday there will have been three vaccine clinics in each N.W.T. community by the end of next week.

"This was a major undertaking," she said, commending everyone who helped coordinate the vaccine rollout and everyone who received their shot.

Moving forward, she said residents in hub communities can book appointments through their public health unit or health centre to get the vaccine. In smaller, remote communities, residents will have to call their local health centre if they're interested in receiving the vaccine.

"We will determine the best way that people get timely access. This would include planning for on-demand mini clinics in communities if this was deemed necessary."

Starting April 12, there will also be a walk-in clinic vaccine clinic in Yellowknife, said Pegg.

She also said more than 200 Diavik workers, both from the N.W.T. and outside the territory, have been vaccinated too.

"This pandemic is not over, but we're making progress. Let's keep up the good work."