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N.W.T. 'not prepared' for spike in self-isolation plans: health minister

The N.W.T. government is asking for patience as it processes over 2,600 pending self-isolation plans from people who had hoped to travel this summer.

Over 2,600 applications are still pending, with 835 filed in the last week

Health Minister Julie Green in a 2020 file photo. Green said on Facebook earlier this week the territory was 'not prepared' for the volume of self-isolation plans they are receiving. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

The N.W.T. government is asking for patience as it processes over 2,600 pending self-isolation plans from people hoping to travel this summer, or have family and friends come visit. 

Health Minister Julie Green said on Facebook earlier this week the territory was "not prepared" for the volume of paperwork they are receiving. 

"I want to acknowledge the time it is taking to process self-isolation plans," Green wrote. "We are looking for a more efficient way of dealing with this information as soon as possible." 

The territory eased self-isolation requirements on June 21, but kept the requirement of filling out a self-isolation plan in place as a precaution.

A statement from the N.W.T.'s Health and Social Services Department said they will be updating their technology used to process self-isolation plans "shortly."

These changes are expected to "reduce the number of outstanding [self-isolation policies] significantly." 

In the meantime, the department says they are prioritizing the applications for people returning to the N.W.T. in the next week, but will reply to others as soon as possible. 

The department also told NNSL that ProtectNWT has trained staff members elsewhere in the secretariat to process applications in order to meet the demand. 

CBC has asked for specifics about how the territory is responding to the delays, but did not receive a more thorough reply before publication. The department says they are working on a longer reply. 

The COVID Secretariat, a government body that oversees ProtectNWT, has a budget of $31.7 million for 2020-2021 and $34.5 for 2021-2022. This money makes up just less than six per cent of the Health Department's total spending.

'It's getting worse'

Some say the territory should have expected and planned for the spike in activity during the summer months. 

James Larocque has been travelling between Mexico and Canada with his wife for medical reasons since the pandemic started.

At the end of his most recent trip, Larocque submitted his self-isolation plan to the N.W.T. a week before he was supposed to come back into the country.

He submitted the plan again five days later because he did not get a reply from ProtectNWT — and to make sure there wouldn't be any issues with his re-entry. 

On his arrival, an airport official told Larocque that he would have to self-isolate for eight days, despite being fully vaccinated, and filling out his self-isolation plan in advance. 

"It's annoying you know, my whole thought is why is this so inefficient? It's been 18 months and it hasn't gotten any better, it's getting worse," Larocque said. 

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