North

N.W.T. public health officials have issued 74 warnings, investigated almost 400 complaints

New numbers released by the territorial government Wednesday shed light on how enforcement is breaking down across the territory.

More than 70 per cent of warnings issued were in Beaufort Delta

Nearly 400 complaints of people breaking public health orders have been investigated in the N.W.T., according to new numbers released Wednesday morning. (Katie Toth/CBC)

Health authorities in the N.W.T. have investigated nearly 400 complaints of violations of public health orders to date, and issued at total of 74 verbal and written warnings.

That's according to new numbers released by the territorial government Wednesday, which shed light on efforts to enforce restrictions on gatherings and mandatory self-isolation plans imposed in the past few weeks.

Since March 21, the territory has had an enforcement tip line, dubbed "Protect NWT," where members of the public can provide information on community members they believe to be violating public health orders.

According to these latest numbers, the bulk of those complaints — nearly half at 46 per cent — have been made in the "North Slave" region, which includes Yellowknife.

But just nine of those investigations resulted in warnings in the North Slave region — less than five per cent.

Compare that to the Beaufort Delta, where nearly three-quarters of all warnings were issued. There, 52 verbal warnings were issued, meaning more than 60 per cent of investigations resulted in a warning.

Overall, 391 complaints were investigated by the territory, with 73 verbal warnings and just one written warning issued. Fewer than one in five investigations resulted in warnings, or about 18 per cent.

No fines have been issued yet.

65 calls to information line since April 15

The release Wednesday also included information on how people are using the territory's new 811 COVID-19 information line, announced April 17.

The line has fielded a total of 65 calls since it started, with each call lasting an average of five minutes. Most came over the phone line's first weekend in operation.

Only one complaint was made to the 811 line, with most people calling for health or risk assessments and information on social distancing and gatherings.

Help line sees spike of new users

Calls to the NWT Help Line have also increased during March and April related to COVID-19, according to Mike Westwick, a communications manager with the Department of Health and Social Services.

"In February of 2020 the help line received 47 calls; in March of 2020 they received 81 calls and to date in April they have received 53 calls," Westwick said in an email. 

The majority of those callers were between the ages of 25 and 54, he said.

"[They] reported concerns or distress related to heightened stress, anxiety, isolation and loneliness. The majority of calls to the help line were new users of the service."

Westwick said the Kids Help Phone line has also seen increased demand in the N.W.T. and across the country: "There has been a 55 per cent national increase in calls, and 62 per cent increase for their texting services since March 12."

Thousands of isolation plans in progress

The release Wednesday morning also includes information on thousands of self-isolation plans underway across the territory.

More than 2,600 plans have been sent to the territorial government, including nearly 1,500 in Yellowknife alone.

Outside of the capital, 235 people submitted plans in the Beaufort Delta, and 243 in Hay River. Both contain designated isolation centres for people returning from travel.

A further 330 isolation plans were submitted by people outside of the territory, which may include transient workers at the territory's mines. An order by chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola, made on April 10, requires mine workers to self-isolate for 14 days before returning to their work sites.

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