Northwest Territories set to bring in new rules around isolation period

People travelling outside of the territory for the holidays won’t be covered when they return.

Starting Jan. 5, 2021, the territorial government in the Northwest Territories will bring in new rules around all non-essential travel including having to pay for the cost of staying at an isolation centre.

“People going for holidays will no longer be covered, but we will continue to pay for people on medical leave, people who might be waiting for results from a test,” said Premier Caroline Cochrane. “If the CPHO says they need to be self-isolated we will accommodate those people.”

Quarantine will still be covered by the territory on compassionate grounds including visits to a terminally ill relative or attending a funeral.

Since March, the territory has been paying for anyone’s 14 day stay in isolation after travelling to the N.W.T.

But in recent weeks, pressure has mounted to lower isolation costs which have amounted to more then half of the territory’s $14 million in COVID-19 spending.

“A substantial amount of the isolation that is paid for by the GNWT is around leisure travel and mostly in our hubs,” said Cochrane. “The Yellowknife area is the highest being utilized for self-isolation. Inuvik, Hay River and Fort Smith as well.”

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Currently, anyone visiting the N.W.T. must first go to an isolation centre in Hay River, Fort Smith, Inuvik and Yellowknife.

People who live in those communities can isolate at home.

First Nation, Inuit and Metis communities have asked the government to look into how residents from outside of those hubs can also stay at home for their isolation period.

Health Minister Julie Green says those changes are being discussed.

“We will be rolling out symptom check phone calls to self-isolaters in the coming weeks,” she said. “This will replace the automated check ins. We believe making a personal connection throughout self isolation will encourage compliance.

“It will also allow us to follow up on wellness checks during the isolation period.”

This week’s announcement comes as federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland praised the territory’s isolation hubs as “money well spent.”

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