Chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola will not commit to the opening of the border between the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

“I know there have been questions around Yukon and the Government of the Northwest Territories does recognize that there are strong ties between communities,” Kandola said during a Wednesday press conference.  

“But we also recognize that residents have made sacrifices by refraining from non-essential travel to the Yukon, so we can keep our community safe during the pandemic.”

Anyone entering the Yukon – including from the Northwest Territories – will still be required to self- isolate for 14 days for the time being, Kandola said.

The GNWT also has concerns about opening the border too soon given some of the out-of-territory travel that runs through Yukon, she said.

“We also have to take into consideration the route that Alaskans travel through Yukon to get into BC and that also people can enter the Yukon if they’re traveling through Alberta and BC.” she said.

Kandola added that Yukon hasn’t provided a timeline or any direction as to whether they want to ease their travel restrictions either.

Vaccine rollout delayed 

Kandola said that 75 per cent of the adult population will receive an initial dose of the vaccine by the end of March, but won’t be fully vaccinated until the end of April.

This is one month later than previously expected.

A fourth shipment of 16,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine is scheduled to arrive in the NWT by the end of this week to add to the 19,000 that has already been received to date, she added.

A fifth shipment is then expected by the end of March or early April. 

“The NWT is still leading the country in the delivery of first doses, which are already giving strong protection to 42 per cent of our population,” Kandola said.

As of Feb. 20, 14,521 first doses of the vaccine have been given and 934 people are now fully vaccinated with two doses.

All 33 NWT communities are scheduled and listed for second dose vaccine clinics on the GNWT website and residents can now get vaccinated throughout the territory.

“Anyone who missed the initial dose and initial visit and falls under one of the priority populations can still get their first dose when the vaccine teams return to the community,” Kandola said. “If you’re not going to be in your community for your second dose, and now want your first dose, you can get the vaccine” in another community.

People choosing this option will be subject to a priority list based on their home community, not where they are receiving the vaccine. 

Territorial medical director Anne-Marie Pegg said that rollout response among NWT residents has been very positive as communities have been rallying around vaccination efforts, she said.

“They’re encouraging others, they’re working to educate each other, and they’re even taking efforts to make this a fun experience with photo opportunities, etc.,” Pegg said. “Everybody involved deserves a bit of recognition for their efforts in protecting themselves, and also all their communities.”

Kandola said that the GNWT remains committed to meeting the recommended 28 to 42 days timeframe between the first and second dose of the vaccine. 

There is currently one confirmed Covid-19 case in Yellowknife as of Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Gahcho Kue Mine outbreak improving

The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer is also continuing to monitor the Covid-19 outbreak announced at Gahcho Kue Mine on Feb. 3.

Kandola said the situation appears to be improving.

There have been 19 Covid cases related to the mine outbreak and 11 of those have recovered and eight are still active,” she said.

Kandola said that three hospitalizations related to the Gahcho Kue Mine outbreak should be “a stark reminder” that people should continue to take the pandemic seriously.

She also declared that the outbreak at the Gahcho Kue winter road worksite from early February is now over.

“There have been no additional cases of Covid-19 since Feb. 1 and all remaining contacts from the outbreak have completed their 14 day self isolation and all three (Covid) cases have fully recovered,” she said.  

Stay home for March break

The chief public health officer is advising that people stay home during the upcoming March break.

“Non-essential travel outside the Northwest Territories is not recommended right now,” she said. “Transmission rates across Canada and other parts of the world is still high. We still need to get 75 per cent of our adult population vaccinated.

“And we still need more data on the impact of Covid-19 variants, because they are more infectious than the original strain.”

For those insisting on travelling, Kandola said that the GNWT website is providing information on regions where people should be careful.

“Knowing the Covid-19 situation or destination, especially if it is outside the Northwest Territories before you travel will allow you to make more informed decisions about your own health and safety,” she said.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. A through and through "County boy" from Prince Edward County, Ont., Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin...

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