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Workers exempt from N.W.T. travel ban now face tighter supervision

Residents returning to the N.W.T. and workers with exemptions under the territory's COVID-19 travel ban face new rules.

Residents returning to the N.W.T. and workers with exemptions under the COVID-19 travel ban face new rules

On March 21, an N.W.T. transportation officer stops vehicles coming in and out of Enterprise, N.W.T, to inform them of a travel ban for non-residents into the territory. New restrictions on returning residents and essential workers were announced Monday. (Anna Desmarais/CBC)

The Northwest Territories government has introduced new rules for N.W.T. residents returning to the territory, and for essential workers and others who remain free to travel to and from the territory under the COVID-19 travel ban.

Although the N.W.T. border has been effectively closed to all non-essential travel since late March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, exemptions have been in place for mine workers, medical professionals, airline workers and others who regularly enter or pass through the territory for their work or for medical reasons. Those exempted travellers were governed by rules — and those rules are now tighter.

"The purpose of this shift is to put additional protections in-place to mitigate the risks inherent in welcoming out-of-territory workers who may be travelling from locations where COVID-19 community spread has occurred, and track where they are and what they're doing when in the N.W.T.," states the government in a news release Monday.

A statement attributed to Health Minister Diane Thom suggests the new measures are required before restrictions in place can be mitigated: "We still have a lot of work ahead to keep us in containment while a vaccine is developed. But these kinds of targeted measures are needed in order to look at relaxing restrictions at home."

N.W.T. Health Minister Diane Thom said the new restrictions were needed to keep any spread of COVID-19 contained. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Starting Monday, the newly amended Public Health Order governing COVID-19 travel restrictions and self-isolation protocols requires N.W.T. residents returning to the territory to check in with Protect NWT on their second, sixth, 10th and 14th day of their mandatory two-week self-isolation period.

Flight crews and "supply chain transportation workers" must now self-isolate while not working if they are going to be in the territory for more than 36 hours. 

Anyone travelling through the territory to another destination must self-isolate if they will be in the N.W.T. for longer than 12 hours, and maintain social distancing if they will be in the territory for fewer than 12 hours.

Essential service workers, supporting workers, infrastructure workers and corrections officers not required to start work immediately must comply with self-isolation plan requirements now in place for returning residents, and they must do so in one of the designated isolation hub communities — Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River or Fort Smith.

The employers of these same workers must now apply for any exemptions to the 14-day isolation order in place for residents returning to the N.W.T.

Other restrictions on workers who may be exempt from self-isolation include:

  • A mandatory itinerary of both their travel 14 days prior to entering the territory and their expected travel during their first 14 days in the territory.
  • A mandatory check-in with Protect NWT four times during their first 14 days in the territory.
  • A prohibition on personal travel outside the community they are in.

Money for masks

Earlier on Monday, the territorial government announced funding available for businesses or organizations in the N.W.T. to manufacture personal protective equipment including certified medical face masks, certified face shields, certified hand sanitizer and non-medical cloth face masks.

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment will provide up to $1,000 for the purchase of raw materials for cloth face masks, and up to $25,000 for the purchase of raw materials for certified medical products to successful applicants.

Anyone with a proposal should email the contact person in their region:

  • Dehcho Region: Jennifer_Thistle@gov.nt.ca

  • Sahtu Region: Marty-Ann_Bayha@gov.nt.ca

  • South Slave Region: Tom_Colosimo@gov.nt.ca

  • North Slave Region: ITInorthslaveloans@gov.nt.ca

  • Beaufort Delta: Don_Craik@gov.nt.ca

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