North

N.W.T. gov't says it will pay for returning students to stay in isolation centres

Territorial officials reissued their guidance on whose stays in government isolation centres will be covered by taxpayers Friday.

Persons with 'specific legal situations' will also stay for free

A passenger sits at the Calgary Airport in this file photo from Oct. 30. The N.W.T. government announced Friday it would fund stays in isolation centres for students returning from programs in southern Canada. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The N.W.T. government will foot the cost of self-isolation for territorial residents returning from education or training programs outside the territory, according to a release from health authorities Friday.

Under current rules, all travellers entering the N.W.T. are required to self-isolate with their household for a full 14 days, unless they receive an exemption as an essential worker.

Those who can't self-isolate at home in Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik or Fort Smith must stay at one of the territory's isolation centres, where the bill for a 14-day stay can top $4,000.

On Dec. 1, the territory said it would no longer cover the cost of isolation centre stays for non-essential travellers. Though those rules created exemptions for medical travel and other necessary trips, it was unclear what would happen to students returning from programs in other provinces at the end of the fall term. 

In Friday's release, the territory says those rules have been updated to clarify that students' stays will be covered after all.

"Students and apprentices who live in the Northwest Territories and are required to travel beyond the border for education and training will have their costs covered for required stays in an isolation centre, if they cannot safely isolate elsewhere," it reads.

Travel necessitated by a court order or other legal requirement will also be covered, it added.

"Persons required to travel outside the territory to comply with legal requirements, such as child custody arrangements or court-ordered addictions treatment, will also have their isolation centre costs covered," it reads.

Specifics on the categories of traveller now exempted from isolation centre costs can be found on the territorial government's COVID-19 website.

According to the release, more than 4,600 people have stayed at territorial isolation centres since March, at a cost of $18.5 million. The territory has previously cited the centres as the single biggest pandemic-related expense the government faces this year.

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