Members of the Legislative Assembly used their first sitting of the year on Feb. 21 to focus on a possible end to Covid-19 restrictions in the near future.

Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson called for an end to pandemic restrictions.

“We need to bring back some normalcy to the residents of the NWT,” he said. “An exit plan needs to be developed, communicated to the public and actioned.”

He asked what criteria the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer would use to determine whether the public health emergency and related restrictions were no longer necessary.

Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green provided a list of criteria that includes the number of Covid cases; the prevalence of severe outcomes, including hospitalization and death; vaccine and booster coverage; and the pattern of transmission of the virus.

Premier Caroline Cochrane promised that the end of the public health emergency “will happen in the very near future.”

Green, however, didn’t give an exact timeline for when the public health emergency would be lifted.

“I’m not going to end the public health emergency today, but bringing it to an end is a discussion I want to engage you and your colleagues in as soon as we can,” she said to Simpson.

Earlier this month, the territory’s deputy chief public health officer, André Corriveau, said the territory is on track to lift the public health emergency sometime in the spring.

Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland asked what the GNWT would do to restore health services to expected levels in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, she asked what the department would do to address its backlog of elective surgeries. Green acknowledged that such procedures had been put on the back burner at the beginning of the pandemic, “but these services have since resumed.”

The health minister said that with a triage of the elective surgeries currently underway, “I expect that residents who are waiting for elective surgeries will hear from healthcare professionals as soon as possible about when they can expect their surgeries to happen.”

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