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New rules for indoor gatherings take effect in the N.W.T.

New COVID-19 rules took effect across the N.W.T. on Friday evening. Now, 25 people who are fully vaccinated or under the age of 12 can gather indoors, and businesses and restaurants can apply to have indoor gatherings of up to 100 people — provided they ask people for proof of their vaccination status.

N.W.T. voluntary vaccine passport system now in effect

A photo of Yellowknife's skyline. The OCPHO is reporting 5 new cases in the capital area Thursday, bringing the total number to 6. There are also 17 cases in Tuktoyaktuk. (Graham Shishkov/CBC)

As promised, new public health orders have come into effect across the N.W.T. They make official the territory's anticipated voluntary vaccine passport system.

If a non-essential N.W.T. business or organization decides to implement the program, then the territory's chief public health officer still gets a final say on how many people are allowed to gather there.

The program kicked in at 5 p.m. Friday, but some Yellowknife restaurants and pubs were ready for the change.

Jean Paquette, the food and beverage manager at Trader's Grill in the Explorer Hotel in Yellowknife, told CBC News the lounge would be asking patrons for their proof of vaccination. 

"We'll probably get a little bit of pushback, but what can you do?" said Paquette. 

Details of new public health order

Gathering limits across the territory — except for in Behchokǫ, K'atl'odeeche First Nation and Hay River — were also relaxed as of Friday evening.

According to a new public health order, people are now allowed to have up to 25 fully vaccinated people, or people under the age of 12, in a home at the same time. If not vaccinated, people are allowed to have up to five visitors over at a time — so long as the total number of people in the home (including family members) isn't more than ten.

All businesses and organizations are now also allowed to have up to 25 people gather indoors, and up to 50 people outdoors, as long as existing public health orders are respected. Voluntary vaccine passports, and approval from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO), would allow up to 100 people to gather indoors and up to 200 outdoors, public health officials said last week.

A document from the territorial government provided to the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce to help businesses and organizations prepare for the change, said that "capacity will be determined on a case by case basis and [will] depend on a business or organization's ability to mitigate and minimize the potential risk to their guests and customers." 

The OCPHO said it would also depend on the size and layout of a particular venue, and that businesses and organizations would need to submit an application to vary from the standard gathering limits. 

All previous applications to vary are no longer valid, the office said. 

According to the OCPHO, the following documents are acceptable forms of vaccination proof, and must be presented alongside a piece of photo ID:

  • Copy of the initial vaccination record from the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA).
  • Paper copy or mobile copy of the territory's new proof of vaccination document.
  • Copy of proof of vaccination document from outside the N.W.T. that includes date of birth, healthcard number, address and inter-jurisdictional QR code.

A containment order in Behchokǫ has been extended to Oct. 29, while a limit on gatherings in Hay River and K'atl'odeeche First Nation remains in effect until the end of Nov. 2. 

Written by Liny Lamberink

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