There are currently no cases of COVID-19 in the Northwest Territories (NWT), and the risk of acquiring the virus in the NWT and Canada remains low at this time.
The NWT faces unique Northern challenges in these types of emergency situations, and as a result, have been in an active state of readiness for weeks – making the necessary preparations to address the anticipated surge in the number of NWT residents needing to receive health services in the coming weeks and months because of COVID-19.
The NWT Chief Public Health Officer increased NWT surveillance to include testing anyone (residents and visitors) who arrives from outside of the NWT and show flu or cold-like symptoms within 14 days of their arrival to test for COVID-19. Having this enhanced surveillance allows for the identification and management of any cases early, thereby reducing the strain on our health care system.
Health care providers are on alert to identify and manage possible cases in the NWT, as well as share healthy respiratory practices on an ongoing basis.
Ensuring the continuity of critical government services and programs during a territorial emergency is the responsibility of each GNWT department. Departments have been proactively identifying which services are critical, and putting plans to support their continuation if impacted as this situation evolves.
The Emergency Management Office (EMO) coordinates the GNWT response in emergencies and is monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely to identify emergency preparedness needs of communities and potential impacts to communities and critical infrastructure. The EMO has been activated to coordinate a broader emergency response. A communications working group has been established to support this group to ensure the public has timely and accurate information.
Residents may notice enhanced signage and prominence of hand hygiene stations at our health facilities. This is for the safety of residents, staff, and patients. Visitors to facilities may be asked screening questions to ensure we are protecting patients at acute care sites and residents at long term care facilities. Residents who are currently experiencing illness or who meet the criteria for self-isolation must call for advice regarding treatment options before presenting to a facility. For more information visit the Health and Social Services website.
Education, Culture and Employment has met with education bodies who are prepared to put their contingency plans in place for school closures should the Chief Public Health Officer direct this action.
Industry, Tourism and Investment is working with NWT Tourism to communicate with licenced tourism operators across the NWT, and have provided information about COVID-19 from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer to them – and to their guests.
As one of the NWT’s largest employers, the GNWT is committed to supporting our employees and their families as we are all faced with this ever-changing situation. Regardless of their current leave balances, all employees will be able to access sick and/or special leave to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 on their families, if required.
All duty and work-related travel outside of the territory for GNWT employees has been cancelled or suspended. Employees can make use of our Employee Family Assistance Program, as required.
This situation is evolving quickly. The GNWT is confident it is taking all the necessary preparedness steps to ensure the health and safety of NWT residents and will continue to provide updates.