It seems it might be a good time to take a look back at Emerging Wisely.

You remember Emerging Wisely. It’s the GNWT’s plan for the step-by-step easing of restrictions put in place because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and eventually abandoning those restrictions altogether.

It might now be appropriate to ask when the NWT can reasonably expect to completely emerge from the Covid-19 restrictions.

As amazing as it may seem, Emerging Wisely was issued way back in May of 2020, and a lot has happened in the 10 months since.

Much of that has been positive, particularly the fact that there has been no widespread outbreak of Covid-19 in the NWT and vaccines have been developed against the disease.

And of course, a vaccination campaign has also begun in the NWT. A growing number of people in the territory have received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine and many have even received the second dose.

In Emerging Wisely, it states that “all remaining public health measures may be lifted” if a number of requirements are met. That would mean all mass gatherings and indoor visiting could then return to normal.

Those requirements include if a vaccine for Covid-19 has been approved and produced, and if a successful vaccination program has been implemented for seniors, those with compromised immune systems due to other diseases and those who already have long-term diseases.

It would seem that the NWT has met or is very close to meeting that condition.

However, the next requirement for completely lifting the restrictions is a bit of a roadblock.

It is that an “effective treatment” has to be approved, and its production capacity has reached the point where a large portion of the population could access it.

It goes without saying that The Hub is not in the business of offering medical opinions, but it seems clear that an effective treatment – perhaps something that could be thought of as a cure – has not been found for Covid-19.

There are various drugs or combinations of drugs that can apparently lessen symptoms, and many are in clinical trials, but no effective treatment is currently accessible to a large portion of the population.

And Emerging Wisely raises one other issue “to be decided” when it comes to lifting all restrictions. That is the timing, with the plan stating that will be influenced by how the pandemic unfolds.

That is a clever line in the document. Basically, it’s the public health equivalent of the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Constitution.

It means that, even if most conditions are met, health authorities in the NWT still reserve the ultimate power to decide to lift restrictions based on the unique facts of the day. The emergence of Covid-19 variants comes to mind.

The NWT may not have reached the point where restrictions can be abandoned, but it is certainly a lot closer than when the Emerging Wisely document was released last May.

It seems now would be a good time for the GNWT to update everyone on when it foresees a possible lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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