Any hopes we had of ending the required 14 days of isolation for non-essential travel into the Northwest Territories were snuffed out this week after Alberta announced sweeping changes to how it will contain the COVID-19 pandemic and the Delta variant, which is now spreading faster than the COVID-19 virus has done so to date.
To summarize — they aren’t going to contain it anymore. People who test positive for the virus wont be required to self isolate or even inform other people. The only time the province will actually test to see if a patient has COVID-19 is if someone winds up in the intensive care unit, by which time they could have infected entire communities across borders.
We’re told the decision is based on data — though enough doctors disagreed with it to spontaneously protest all weekend long and publicly question the chief medical officer’s professional integrity, which is highly unusual — and the province needs to stop overreacting about a virus that has killed over 4 million people worldwide in less than two years so it can prepare for other seasonal diseases, like the flu — which was largely contained last year because of COVID-19 safety precautions. This is all happening parallel to ongoing efforts to force nurses and doctors into significant pay cuts, leading to an exodus of medical practitioners to more welcoming places.
All of our victories against diseases like smallpox and polio came from mass vaccination programs, tracking where the viruses are prevalent, and then targeting those areas. These are built on centuries of trial and error and can sometimes be restrictive to individuals — but they work. They’ve contained multiple outbreaks in both Yellowknife and Whitehorse to date.
Requiring anyone entering the territory to isolate is our best tool to counter this reckless decision. How reckless a decision? I asked Health Minister Julie Green when her department was made aware of this new plan and she said she found out when Alberta announced it, suggesting all health authorities across the country are now scrambling to figure out a sensible response to this.
Time is of the essence. Even though many of our most remote communities, like Sachs Harbour and Ulukhaktok, are reporting over 80 per cent of their population are fully vaccinated, we now know that people who are vaccinated can still carry the virus. We also know some vaccinated people are still getting sick, particularly with the Delta variant. And COVID-19 is still adapting to what we throw at it, shielded from science by policies that allow it to spread and multiply.
Which is bad for our tourism industry, because we’re going to have to live with a required isolation period for some time and they’re going to take the hit.