The premier will be announcing changes to self-isolation centres Tuesday, after a report was released by the GNWT, finding a majority of residents don’t want to continue paying for self-isolation stays.
In a press conference on Thursday, Premier Caroline Cochrane said an announcement about changes to would be coming in the next couple of weeks. However, the premier did not include any details.
The government will be holding a press conference tomorrow to announce its plans for its isolation policies.
The news comes after a report outlined the results of a survey conducted by the territorial government into their running of the self-isolation centres.
Eleven Indigenous governments, 21 communities, and the territory’s Business Advisory Council took part in feedback sessions in late October and early November.
A majority of the respondents — the feedback was provided in the form of a pie chart with no specific numbers attached — were against the GNWT continuing to pay for the entirety of people’s self-isolation stays. A smaller portion of the respondents were against paying for people’s self-isolation stays, with some considerations, like the person’s financial status or if the travel was for medical reasons.
The smallest portion of respondents were in favour of continuing to pay for people’s self-isolation stays.
Currently, most people entering the territory must isolate for 14 days in one of the isolation hubs, in either Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith, or Inuvik.
Those who live outside of those four communities must isolate at a government-run centre in one of those four hubs. Only after the 14 days can they return home to their community.
The territorial government has established isolation centres in the hub communities, and been covering the costs of booking out rooms in hotels in the four communities, like the Chateau Nova and the Explorer Hotel in Yellowknife. Running these self-isolation centres makes up 54 per cent of the territory’s budget for the COVID-19 Secretariat, a new government department tasked with coordinating the GNWT’s response to the pandemic.
The majority of people in the feedback report released by the GNWT were in favour of cutting costs by looking at who will have their self-isolation paid for.
The high cost of running self-isolation centres had been previously flagged by several MLA’s at the Legislative Assembly. Finance minister Caroline Wawzonek responded at the time that cutting money from the self-isolation centres could create inequity for some travellers.
Impacts to mental health were another area of concern flagged in the feedback report. Similar concerns had been voiced by Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn, who said some elders have told him spending time in isolation centres feels “like residential school all over again,” in the legislative assembly.
“We have to find a balance between keeping people safe, providing support, and then of course, being accountable to the taxpayers for the money that we’re spending,” said Cochrane on Thursday.
But isolating in smaller communities would have challenges. Concerns about smaller communities’ ability to enforce self-isolation, and ensure people are following the COVID-19 guidelines were also raised.
“A lack of these services in smaller communities underscored many reasons for concern and/or making the decision to not allow self-isolation in smaller communities,” the report read.
An announcement about changes to the territory’s isolation policy will be happening at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.