The GNWT will release information on easing pandemic-related restrictions in less than a week, the chief public health officer (CPHO) said Wednesday.

We’re working on a document about easing public health restrictions in a phased approach,” Dr. Kami Kandola told reporters. “It’s in its final draft undergoing review. We’ll release it publicly. The order regarding lifting restrictions is undergoing legal review. Once we have an amended order we can put that into effect. Those are happening simultaneously.”  

“The specific information on phases will be released before the order comes into effect. There will be a period between the release of the strategy and when the order comes into effect so we can work with our partners.”

Kandola delivered the update in the teleconference along with Ivan Russell, Director of Public Safety with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Her update on preparations to ease restrictions comes just over a week after she introduced new and stricter measures on travel into the NWT.

RELATED REPORTING: Kandola says tighter border measures may allow eased restrictions in NWT

The phased approach will progress by risk level, with outdoor gatherings – deemed lower risk because of less likelihood of viral transmission outside – expected to come first.

“We’re looking at businesses, outdoor gatherings, schools, as we go through the relatively low risk phases. We move into progressively higher risk phases related to the level of indoor gatherings that are riskier,” she said. 

Border security

While restrictions on public life will be eased, border restrictions will be maintained into the summer.

“The ability for us to relax measures, relates to travel restrictions and self-isolation plans. We’ll continue to maintain high border security in the summer. We have criteria for people traveling into the NWT, NWT residents and essential workers. And we’ll continue to maintain that criteria over the summer,” Kandola said. 

Second wave of virus

The CPHO addressed the health measures that could be implemented in the case of a second wave of coronavirus in the fall when temperatures begin to drop.

“We have criteria for phasing back (restrictions) and we have strategic phases for a second wave,” she said. 

Kandola acknowledged the frustrations experienced by NWT residents living with the pandemic-related restriction measures and asked for patience from the public.

“We want to move forward but we need to move forward safely. But our main risk right now is travel-related. At this moment there’s no evidence of community transmission. We want to move forward and we will. I just ask that people hold on a little while longer.”

Rapid testing kits

The territory’s top doctor also spoke about the NWT’s progress in procuring rapid Covid test kits, such as the Spartan Cube and GeneXpert that can process test results in less than one hour.

Kandola said no Spartan Cubes have been received, after the devices were recalled from the market due to “efficacy of the proprietary swab,” the Ottawa-based Spartan Biosciences said in a news release on Sunday.

RELATED REPORTING: Rapid testing GeneXpert kits for Covid on way to NWT after Spartan Cubes recalled

“If we had them the intent was to take them into communities so that they can have more rapid testing on site. We have two GeneXperts at Stanton (Territorial Hospital). Two more to be expected. However, these machines require a level of laboratory expertise that we have at Stanton but that is difficult to provide in regional centres,” she explained.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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