The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has brought a whirlwind of information in recent weeks with updates often changing by the day.

Yellowknifer has compiled a timeline of key dates based on past stories, news releases and other media coverage documenting the development of our current state of widespread lockdown and one reported case of the virus in our community.


The first case of coronavirus is identified in Wuhan, China.


Jan. 22

Dr. Kami Kandola, the NWT’s chief public health officer, says risk of coronavirus reaching NWT is low.

“Right now the direct threat to Canada appears low,” Kandola said. “We have to realize that China has over a billion people and (of) the number of cases right now, the majority are in Wuhan.”

Jan 27

The National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg confirms the first case of coronavirus in Canada.

NWT residents are advised by Kandola to take precautions amid deepening concerns of a surge in coronavirus patients.

In January, chief public health officer Kami Kandola said risk of coronavirus is low in NWT.
NNSL file photo

“But the difference is that H1N1 was influenza,” Kandola said in comparison to COVID-19. “A vaccine was developed. Coronavirus is a separate family. There is no vaccine so we need to do supportive care. Right now there are no cases (in the territory) but to limit public spread we’re telling the public to take precautions. You don’t want to wait for coronavirus to come here.”


Feb. 26

Patty Hajdu, federal health minister, and Theresa Tam, national public health officer, both recommended stocking up on supplies as needed “for a week or so.”

Feb. 27

Kandola supports Hajdu in calling for Canadians to stockpile food and supplies.
“The advice by the federal government is prudent because we don’t know how fast the virus will take off,” said Kandola. “We don’t want people to be in a situation where they don’t have enough food at home if they’re quarantining themselves or isolating themselves.”

Yellowknifers should stock up on food and medications from local shops in case coronavirus spreads to the NWT, chief public health officer Kami Kandola said in late February. Blair McBride/NNSL photo


March 1 to 4

The Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada conference takes place in Toronto. One attendee was reported to have COVID-19. The event featured several NWT attendees including Katrina Nokleby, minister of industry, tourism and investment. Kandola recommends NWT attendees self-monitor. 

March 4

The Prime Minister of Canada’s Office creates a cabinet committee to tackle COVID-19.

March 6

Kandola says she is able to close schools under the Public Health Act. On this date there were 47 confirmed cases of the virus in Canada, with none in NWT, 22 in Ontario, 21 in B.C., three in Quebec and one in Alberta. Public health risk in Canada was considered low and risk of contracting the virus in the NWT was considered low.

March 7

The Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. 

March 10

The chief public health officer reports 24 cases were tested in the NWT with no confirmed cases.
Residents and visitors are advised to self-isolate and be tested for COVID-19 if they show flu-like symptoms and have travelled outside the NWT within the past 14 days. They will be requested to self-isolate until results are available.

Local stores report mass sales of masks and sanitizers Sutherland’s Drugs pharmacist Aaron LaBorde said he doesn’t know when supplies will come in. “(Suppliers) are letting us either order a very small amount at a time or they’re reserving quantities for higher priority places such as hospitals,” said LaBorde.

Neither pharmacist Aaron LaBorde nor his Alberta-based suppliers know when items like hand sanitizer and face masks will return to his downtown Yellowknife store. Products are backlogged and shortages are widespread as consumers clear shelves amid mounting COVID-19 concerns.
Brendan Burke/NNSL photo.
March 9, 2020.

March 11

Kandola says health authorities in the NWT are working on pandemic preparedness plans as the World Health Organization declares the coronavirus a global pandemic.
“Health authorities have been meeting daily (to plan and looking) at health systems and capacity and making sure we have enough nurses and doctors to run the (intensive care units). They’re in the process of looking at their surge capacity,” said Kandola.

March 12

A planned in-person First Ministers’ meeting involving Premier Caroline Cochrane, provincial and territorial premiers, and the Prime Minister in Ottawa was postponed due to COVID 19.

Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, tests positive for COVID-19.

Snowking Festival suspends activities and cancels festival on March 17. Longjohn Jamboree cancels its festivities scheduled later in the month.

March 13

Premier Caroline Cochrane and the chief public health officer hold news conference at legislative assembly.

The legislative assembly recesses early in preparation for COVID-19.

Caroline Cochrane, premier of the Northwest Territories, addresses the media to update the public on the COVID-19 at the Great Hall of the NWT Legislative Assembly, March 13. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

March 15

Kandola recommends all international travellers to NWT self-isolate for 14 days.

March 16

The federal government announces $1 billion in economic stimulus and Cochrane said the $600,000 that will go to NWT is not enough.

The Province of Alberta advised that a person with coronavirus has been identified in northern Alberta.

March 17

The City of Yellowknife closes several municipal facilities and programs; sends non-essential workers home to work starting March 19.

The majority of GNWT employees are ordered to work from home starting March 19.

March 18

The federal government announces an economic package worth $26 billion with added tax deferrals to assist the private sector.

Diane Thom, minister of health and social services, under the recommendation by the chief public health officer, declares a public health emergency.

March 19

Ekati Mine suspends operations due to COVID 19.

March 20

The GNWT unveils a 13.2 million relief package. The GNWT reported that there were 275 tests conducted, no confirmed cases of COVID

Infrastructure Minister Katrina Nokleby, left, looks on as Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek speaks to reporters on at the legislative assembly on March 20.
Nick Pearce/NNSL photo

March 21

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 is identified in the NWT.

March 22

Kandola orders all travel into the Northwest Territories prohibited, with limited exceptions, to combat COVID-19 in the territory.

March 22

The Yukon’s chief medical officer reported that territory’s first two cases. He advises against all non-essential travel outside of the territory. He also advises suspension of all non-essential travel to rural communities within Yukon.

March 23

Cochrane participates in a teleconference with First Ministers and the Prime Minister.

March 24

Parliament of Canada resumes to pass emergency measures to combat COVID-19.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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