The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce says the GNWT’s Emerging Wisely plan is holding the territory back from its recovery.
The GNWT recently updated its Emerging Wisely plan, which outlined the timeline for loosening COVID-19 restrictions in the territory. Tim Syers, president of the YK Chamber, wrote in a letter to the GNWT that the plan is already outdated and is hurting business.
“As the rest of Canada continues to emerge from their COVID-19 restrictions, the Northwest Territories is laboring under a plan that is already out of date,” Syers said in the letter. “Although only 3 weeks old, Emerging Wisely 2021, for all its data-driven benchmarks and progressive steps to the new normal, needs to be binned.”
Indoor restrictions were loosened last week, after isolation requirements had been changed.
In the GNWT’s original timeline, they had projected indoor restrictions would be loosened first, but self-isolation requirements were tied to national vaccine averages, opposed to the territory’s vaccine average.
Outdoor restrictions were the first to be loosened, followed by self-isolation requirements being lifted – those were changed because the 7-day rolling average for the number of new COVID-19 cases nationwide dropped below 1,000 and Canada’s partial vaccination rate reached 66.8 per cent.
Indoor restrictions were loosened when territory reached 66 to 75 per cent fully vaccinated or 75 per cent partially vaccinated. Currently, the territory is at 62 per cent fully vaccinated, and at 69 per cent partially vaccinated.
Syers says this is evidence that the timeline for loosening restrictions needs to be revised.
“The first clue that Emerging Wisely 2021 would need to be binned was when we stumbled up the first two steps,” he said.
“Turns out, the Canadian case counts dropped so quickly, it happened the other way around. That’s fine. But it shows that this plan was being overtaken by events from the outset. There is no shame in redoing the plan in the face of new circumstances.”
Allowing leisure travel into the NWT is triggered when the territory is 75 per cent fully vaccinated for the population aged 18 years and over, and there are less than 1,000 cases reported a day in Canada, and the country is reporting a fully vaccinated rate of between 66 and 75 per cent.
Lifting all restrictions will require a 75 per cent full vaccination rate in the territory and 66 to 75 per cent in the whole of Canada, with the number of daily cases staying below 1,000.
Lifting all restrictions would also require the total population, including those under 12, to have a partial vaccination rate of 66 to 75 per cent. None of the COVID-19 vaccines as of yet have been cleared for use in children aged 12 years and younger.
Currently the NWT is at a partial vaccination rate of 73 per cent and a fully vaccinated rate of 67 per cent. Nationally the numbers were at 67 per cent and 39 per cent respectively, with the seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases at 478, well below the 1,000 benchmark.
Syers called on the GNWT to remove the requirements for a certain vaccine rate, to allow NWT to reopen fully.