The NWT faces a high risk of Covid-19 importation due to threats of variants of concern from outside the territory.

“The emergence of (Covid-19) variants means there is less room for error in how we follow public health measures and we must remain vigilant as we continue to fight this virus,” said chief public health officer (CPHO) Dr. Kami Kandola, in an email on April 2.

Covid-19 variants rising in Alberta

The importation risk is primarily due to the fact that there is much travel between the NWT and Alberta, where numbers of Covid-19 variants are growing fast.

Of the 10,582 active cases in Alberta, 4,145 were identified by the provincial government on April 4 as variants of concern. That number represents 39.2 per cent of the total number of active cases.

The importation risk is higher for the NWT than for Yukon, Kandola told CBC on April 1, despite the territory having higher Covid-19 case counts and sharing borders with British Columbia and Alaska: two jurisdictions with very high numbers of infections.

“Because we still need to know more on how effective vaccines are against emerging variants of concern, and because the Moderna vaccine is not yet recommended for anyone under the age of 18, our risk of importation is high right now. The first variant of concern identified in the NWT was announced on April 1 – the B 1.1.7 variant,” Kandola said.

In B.C, there were 588 cases of variants of concern on April 5, out of the 8,490 active cases of Covid-19, according to a news release from the Office of the Provincial Health Officer.

The NWT’s latest case of Covid-19 was announced April 5, bringing the territory’s total number of coronavirus cases to 49.

75 per cent vaccination ‘in question’

Kandola spoke just days after Health Minister Julie Green expressed skepticism that the NWT could reach its goal to vaccinate 75 per cent of the eligible population by the summer.

On March 29, Green said that vaccination rate is “now in question” due to the risk of variants, their transmission rates, vaccine uptake and other factors.

“The whole business of how much is enough is really up for debate at this point,” she said. “It depends on how well the vaccine protects against the variants.”

Green’s speech in the legislative assembly came just three days before the NWT reported a case of the B.1.1.7 variant at the Diavik Diamond Mine.

The infected individual is not an NWT resident and the infection won’t be counted in the territory’s total number of cases.

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