NWT residents shouldn’t expect to see mask mandates or indoor gathering restrictions lifted before spring, according to the GNWT’s Covid Secretariat.

Secretariat spokesperson Richard Makohoniuk confirmed on Jan. 11 that the GNWT has no plans to lift either of those orders during the winter.

“It is unlikely that the public indoor masking requirement and some of the indoor gathering restrictions will be removed during the winter months where the risk of Covid-19 spread is higher due to extended time spent indoors,” he said.

In addition to masks being mandatory in indoor public spaces across the territory, a temporary health measure adopted on Jan. 4 limits private indoor gatherings to 10 people and drinking establishments to six people per table. Should this order not be renewed by Jan. 21, former gathering restrictions of 50 people outside and 25 in indoor public spaces would again apply.

The GNWT also has no intention of drafting a new pandemic emergence plan to replace the one from June, despite the emergence of the Omicron variant.

“There is no current intent to design a new Emerging Wisely plan as the current plan was designed to be flexible to accommodate for uncontrollable variables such as new variants or outbreaks occurring within the territory,” said Makohoniuk.

The Emerging Wisely plan lays out several criteria that must be met before public health restrictions can be lifted in the territory. These include a 75 per cent full vaccination rate in NWT residents 12 and older, 66-75 per cent partial vaccination coverage for the entire NWT population, 66-75 per cent full vaccination coverage nationwide, and a seven-day daily average infection rate of less than 1,000 nationwide.

The first three criteria have been met: 86.8 per cent of NWT residents age five and over are fully vaccinated; 88. 5 per cent of all residents have been at least partially vaccinated; and 77.7 per cent of the country’s population is fully vaccinated. However, due in large part to the emergence of the Omicron variant, Canada had a seven-day average infection rate of close to 39,500 on Jan. 10. The last time this figure dropped below 1,000 was in August.

In addition to these criteria, “When the risks of Covid-19 infection importation and community spread associated with imported infections can be adequately minimized and mitigated, Dr. [Kami] Kandola, the NWT’s chief public health officer, will decide on the next steps for easing of restrictions outlined in the Emerging Wisely plan,” said Makohoniuk.

In a press conference on Jan. 4, Kandola said the most significant criteria in lifting restrictions will be the prevalence of severe health outcomes associated with Covid, including hospitalization and death.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.