Fully vaccinated Canadians are no longer required complete two weeks of isolation when returning to the territory.
Instead, individuals will take a COVID-19 test after eight days of isolation. If the test comes back negative, the individual is only required to self-monitor and wear a mask for the six remaining days.
The new measures, announced at a press conference Wednesday, are a result of studies on the effectiveness of COVID vaccines on reducing the virus’ transmission.
Chief public health officer (CPHO) Dr. Kami Kandola told reporters that the assurance of watching case numbers fall in jurisdictions with high vaccination rates, combined with data indicating people are most likley to become symptomatic in the first five to seven days gave public health authorities confidence to reduce isolation measures. Kandola added that the required COVID test on the eighth day would pick up any additional asymptomatic cases.
“Self-isolation has been one of the pillars of our COVID-19 response,” she said. “It has helped keep our residents and communities healthy and safe but there is also no denying self-isolating for 14 days is not easy for some people.”
The new measures also exempt fully-vaccinated household members from isolating with an indivudal returning from travel.
If other household members are not fully vaccinated, however, they are required to isolate with the indivual for eight days.
If someone who is fully vaccinated is travelling with someone who is not fully vaccinated, the household or individual must isolate for the full 14 days.
As of April 17, 19,271 NWT residents have received both vaccine doses and 25, 375 people have received just the first. This translates to 51 per cent of adults in the NWT who are fully vaccinated, Health Minister Julie Green said.
She added that “while these numbers are impressive, there is still work to do. We are starting to see a lull in our vaccine uptake, just as the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants are arriving here.”
For the reduced isolation period to apply, travelling individuals are considered fully vaccinated only 14 days after receiving their second dose – or 14 days after their single-dose vaccine in the case of the Johnson and Johnson immunization.
As proof of vaccination, NWT residents can go to the GNWT or NTHSSA website to request immunization records, which would then be sent electronically, said territorial medical director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg. She advised that health authorities are working with other jurisdictions to determine which documents would be acceptable “without getting into the idea of a vaccine passport.”
While the territory has continued to have one of the lowest rates of COVID in the country, Kandola said that “what happens beyond our border is beyond our control, but it does matter. This pandemic is not over here until it is over everywhere else.”
Though medical experts at one time anticipated “vaccines could be the silver bullet ending this pandemic,” Kandola said that has changed due to the emergence of virus variants “fuelling a third wave across Canada and other parts of the world.”
With that in mind, she said it would be difficult to pinpoint an exact figure for reaching herd immunity. She said her office’s next announcement will pertain to a revised version of the Emerging Wisely plan, which would first address easing restrictions on outdoor gatherings as summer approaches.
Asked to deliver a message of hope, Premier Caroline Cochrane thanked all NWT residents “who have obeyed the orders,” and NWT businesses “who have made huge sacrifices.”
Though, she said “it hasn’t come without a cost … our hard work has paid off.”