Feds sending more help to N.W.T. to deal with COVID-19 surge

COVID-19 surge

The federal government is sending more help to the Northwest Territories to deal with a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says Ottawa has approved a request from the territory to provide “surge capacity support” for infection prevention and control, contact tracing and testing.

The support – 10 specialists from the Canadian Red Cross – will be effective until Nov. 14, with the possibility of a two-week extension.

That’s on top of previous help provided through the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada for infection control and contact tracing.

After months of zero new cases of COVID-19, the territory began seeing a spike in cases in mid-August.

As of Tuesday morning, there were 350 active cases in the Northwest Territories, which last week extended a territory-wide public health emergency until Oct. 26. Nine people have died.

The N.W.T. government earlier on Monday announced that as of Nov. 30, all of its employees will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

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Previously, the policy only applied to government employees working with vulnerable populations.

The territory’s finance minister, Caroline Wawzonek, explained in a news release that the change was necessary because of the impact the outbreak has had since the policy was initially considered.

The release noted that accommodations to the policy will be considered on a case-by-case basis for medical reasons or based on protected grounds under the Human Rights Act.

It also noted that unions, Indigenous governments and others were consulted in the drafting of the policy.

According to COVID-19 Tracker Canada, a database run by volunteers, 75.8 per cent of people in the N.W.T. are fully vaccinated against the virus. The website says 80 per cent of people in the territory have received one dose.

In September, the territorial government brought in new restrictions to try and cut down on the spread of the virus.

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