N.W.T. offers self-isolation exemptions for some Nunavut travellers

The Northwest Territories announced on Thursday that the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer will consider self-isolation exemptions for people travelling to and from Nunavut.

Travellers can ask for an exemption as they submit their self-isolation plan to ProtectNWT

N.W.T. Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green announced the territory will now consider self-isolation exemptions for travellers to and from Nunavut if they meet certain conditions. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

The Northwest Territories is taking a step in expanding its COVID-19 bubble, announcing on Thursday that the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer will consider self-isolation exemptions for people from Nunavut.

Anyone travelling to the N.W.T. now must submit a self-isolation plan to ProtectNWT and self-isolate for 14 days. They have to isolate in a dwelling that is separate from anyone else in their household and if they can't, everyone in the household needs to self-isolate.

Under this new measure, people travelling from Nunavut will still have to submit a self-isolation plan to ProtectNWT but may also ask for an exemption. 

Travellers from Nunavut who are self-isolating right now in the N.W.T. may ask for a retroactive exemption by contacting ProtectNWT.

The two territories had a travel bubble before Nov. 17. It was suspended on that day after 26 cases were reported in Nunavut in the previous two weeks.

'Strong ties'

"There are strong ties between the N.W.T. and Nunavut," said N.W.T. Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green in the release. "Many of our residents have friends and family in Nunavut and vice-versa."

She said that as the N.W.T. continues its COVID-19 vaccine roll out and more residents build up immunity — as of Feb. 15, 39 per cent of the eligible population in the N.W.T. have received a first dose of the vaccine according to public health officials — the territory is looking to expand its bubble across the North.

"Considering exemptions for travellers from Nunavut arriving in the N.W.T. is an important step in this process as we gradually and safely emerge from this pandemic," Green said.

Conditions for exemptions

The release stated that travellers applying for an exemption must have been in Nunavut or the N.W.T. for at least the past 14 days. They must also:

  • Not be symptomatic.
  • Not have been named a contact of a COVID-19 diagnosis.
  • Not have been notified that they were part of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Travellers who are coming from a community with travel restrictions in place, or that is experiencing community spread of COVID-19 or that is coming from a Nunavut closed camp or work site that has out-of-territory workers, will not be eligible for an exemption.

The statement said people who receive an exemption will have to follow additional conditions set out in the exemption letters during the first 14 days after they arrive in the N.W.T., such as wearing non-medical masks in public places where social distancing cannot be maintained.

It added that household members of an exempted traveller will also be exempt and won't need to self-isolate.

However, it also said the chief public health officer can revoke an exemption at any time or change the conditions of the exemption based on evolving public health risk assessments.