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Covid-19 update: GNWT considers lifting some restrictions

The Government of the Northwest  Territories announced Wednesday that plans for lifting some Covid-19 restrictions will be rolled out in the coming weeks, but a number of factors have to be considered and details are yet to be finalized.

Dr. Kami Kandola, the NWT's chief public health officer, says she's beginning to look at ways to lift public health restrictions after more than a month of responses to the pandemic. She says more detailed plans will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Some provincial governments started announcing plans this week on how they will begin reopening their economies after the pandemic.

While neighbouring provinces like British Columbia or Alberta have their states of public emergency still in place, others like Saskatchewan and Manitoba are formulating strategies for lifting restrictions.

In the NWT, Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer, told reporters during her weekly news conference on Wednesday that detailed plans will be revealed in coming weeks.

On Tuesday, the public health emergency was extended two weeks to May 12.

She said the GNWT  feels comfortable moving to the next stage of easing the public health orders after travel restrictions were implemented earlier this week.

"As soon as possible," she said when asked when people can begin seeing restrictions lifted. "We're hoping the next two to three weeks, and that's what I'm working on right now."

Kandola's staff are examining a number of factors in creating a strategic plan based on national and international coronavirus data, including "transmission dynamics, cases (and) deaths."

"We’ve been focused on planning for emerging gradually, and safely, from our current levels of public health restrictions," Kandola said. "The changes we’ve introduced to our public health orders this week are allowing us to consider taking these first steps.

"If we can track those entering our territory when they’re at highest risk of transmission, and keep our boundaries strong, we can bring more freedom and stability to our residents as we continue our response to this virus," she said.

Still Kandola was hesitant to get into specifics on how plans will be laid out, noting these will be made available "as soon as possible."

"What I can share right now is some of the things we’ll be considering," she said, noting that her team will be focused on ensuring restrictions on gatherings are eased properly, safely providing businesses with relief, the best ways to manage returns to work within government and schools, how to continue to protect against further introduction of Covid-19 within the NWT; and how to keep the territory's most vulnerable people safe until a vaccine is discovered.

"We will not have further details today because it is important we present a plan with the triggers, milestones, and parameters defined right away so we do not confuse residents," she said.

She was highly complimentary of residents for following orders and thereby "planking the curve" of the coronavirus.

Testing rates, she noted, have "decreased substantially" with fewer than 20 taking place. She added that even though the GNWT is seeing few symptomatic cases, she's planning on increasing community surveillance and testing in small communities so there's better data for the territorial government.

Enforcement statistics

GNWT statistics released Wednesday show that as of April 29 at 10 a.m. there were 532 investigations across the NWT related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Of those, the North Slave saw the most with 242. This was followed by 116 in the Beaufort Delta, 110 in the South Slave, 38 in the Sahtu, and 26 in the Dehcho.

The GNWT also reported that there were verbal warnings issued in all regions with 52 in the Beaufort Delta, 15 in the North Slave, 12 in the South Slave, four in the Sahtu, and two in Dehcho.

There were also written warnings issued that included 10 in Sahtu, one in the Dehcho, and one in the North Slave. The Beaufort Delta and Sough Slave regions have had none.

The GNWT also states there have been 65 calls to the 811 information line from April 15 to 21 and 95 calls from April 22 to 29.