Premier Caroline Cochrane says that a possible vaccine for Covid-19 isn’t expected until spring and as the virus rapidly spreads across Canada, her government is asking residents to avoid non-essential travel as the Christmas holidays approach.
“My understanding is that it is at the last stage of testing (for the vaccine), and we are hopeful that it will be released in the spring… is what we’re looking at,” Cochrane said Thursday, noting she’s in regular contact with premiers and the federal government. “And we all agreed across Canada that there would be a protocol in how we deal with the vaccinations.”
She said rollout will start with those determined to be at higher risk, such as senior citizens.
“We are then working with the health-care providers, those who are providing support to health care, and eventually to the general population,” she said.
Cochrane took part in a news conference with chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola after a week that saw a spike in national rates for Covid-19, including in neighbouring jurisdictions of Yukon, Alberta and Nunavut.
Cochrane and Kandola said while rates of the virus remain low in the NWT, it can be expected that there will be an increase here, too.
“We are seeing the impact of the second wave across the country, including our Northern neighbors to the east and west of us as we grapple with increasing numbers,” Cochrane said. “Our success at limiting the number of cases can be attributed to our pandemic efforts to protect our residents, and communities. But we are not immune to the virus, and it will only be a matter of time before we see more cases in the Northwest Territories.”
‘Different type of Christmas’
Kandola and Cochrane are not telling travellers not to enter the NWT for Christmas, but they are recommending that people avoid non-essential travel.
“I think the message right now is that the risk is high throughout the Northwest Territories and throughout Canada and throughout the world,” the premier said. “The risk is high, the second wave is hitting harder than I think anybody would have projected. It’s going to be tough for parents and tough for students.
“Unless it’s essential travel, we’re recommending that people not return home or make sure that if they do, follow the orders and self-isolate.”
Kandola said she’s recommending people “stay put” for Christmas as she expects Covid rates to climb higher across the country in the coming weeks.
“One of the most powerful steps to take is to avoid any travel outside the Northwest Territories and limit non-essential trips into the territory, as well, especially from areas experiencing high levels of community transmission,” she advised. “Cases across Canada are rising at an unprecedented rate. In the coming weeks we are going to see the numbers rise even more.”
By late December and early January, following travel from the south, it’s typical for flu outbreaks to occur.
“So for a whole host of reasons it’s better that we have a different type of Christmas this year, and we stay put.”
Cochrane also provided a list of statistics on various aspects of how the GNWT is handling the pandemic:
- The Protect NWT and 811 phone system saw 1,036 calls and 552 emails during the week of Nov. 15-21.
- There were 605 pending self-isolation plans being reviewed and 1,079 travelers self-isolating as of Nov. 21.
- 27,244 self-isolation plans have been submitted to Protect NWT to date.
- 250 residents were using self-isolation centres in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River and Fort Smith as of Nov 21. The total number of travellers who have used the GNWT’s isolation centers is 4,080.
- From Nov. 15-21, 348 vehicles crossed the NWT border. Since the territory put in place checkpoints at the border crossings earlier this year, there’s been a total of 14,875 vehicles that have crossed the boundary. Of those, there were 5,679 private vehicles and 9,196 commercial vehicles.
- From Nov. 15-21, 663 passengers were screened through the territorial airport and Covid Secretariat staff handled 43 arriving flights.
- In total, 18,382 airplane passengers have entered the territory as of Nov. 21.
- From Nov. 15-21, there were 103 new cases opened by enforcement officers and 75 cases of those were addressed and closed.
- Since enforcement began, there’s been 3,302 total complaints related to enforcement issues.
- The total number of verbal and written warnings issued during the pandemic is 440, with a total of 34 tickets of $1,725 apiece issued across the territory.