On May 13, 2020, the Northwest Territories published its reopening plan, Emerging Wisely. The plan has five phases to ease restrictions, with the first phase expected to commence in mid-May 2020.
The phases are as follows:
- Essential Steps and Containment
- Relaxing Phase 1: First steps
- Relaxing Phase 2: Next steps
- Relaxing Phase 3: Careful steps past the second wave
- Relaxing Phase 4: Final measures lifted
Emerging Wisely identifies what requirements must be met to begin moving into each phase, and includes progressively eased restrictions on people, businesses, and activities important to residents.
In order to initiate Relaxing Phase 1, all essential steps must have been successfully implemented, there must be no evidence of community spread within the territory through May 15, 2020, and no widespread reports of non-compliance.
The first phase includes the following measures, subject to certain restrictions:
- some businesses and organizations would be allowed to reopen (e.g. personal services, museums and art galleries, bottle depots, personal training at gyms and fitness centres);
- specific types of mass gatherings would be allowed (e.g. farmers’ markets, campgrounds, recreational facilities, libraries, golf courses, beaches, boat launches, outdoor fields, and playgrounds); and
- schools, except colleges, adult learning, and trade schools, would reopen.
Some measures, including travel restrictions at the border and self-isolation for returning travellers, will remain until the end of the pandemic. The plan’s details are available online, and the Worker’s Safety and Compensation Commission has published a guidance document for businesses preparing to reopen.
Notwithstanding that schools are permitted to reopen under the Territory’s reopening plan, the Education, Culture and Employment Minister and education stakeholders (including the Territory’s teachers’ union) agreed to keep schools closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. The government also announced that it is developing an inventory of local mask producers and sellers.
May 21, 2020: With the entry into Phase 1 of Emerging Wisely, on May 21, 2020, the Government of the Northwest Territories’ announced that it has lengthened its operating hours for its four highway ferries.
On June 13-14, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government announced the start of Relaxing Phase 2 of its reopening plan and issued Public Health Order – COVID-19 Relaxing Phase 2 which includes the following measures and restrictions:
- curling rinks, gymnastics clubs and indoor theatres must remain closed to members of the public;
- other businesses and facilities are allowed to open provided that they:
- have no more than 25 persons in any indoor location and no more than 50 persons in any outdoor location, with the exception of listed essential businesses; and
- comply with their obligations under section 88 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations made pursuant to the Safety Act, to develop and implement an exposure control plan to eliminate or minimize worker exposure to COVID-19. Employers operating businesses and facilities must complete a WSCC Workplace Risk Assessment and make the completed form readily available on request from a Public Health Official. Employers must also require their workers to complete a WSCC Field Level Risk Assessment before beginning work at any work site.
The Order provides further business and facility-specific requirements and restrictions.
The government also updated its Public Health Order – COVID-19 Travel Restrictions and Self-Isolation Protocol. Under the amended travel restrictions, workers coming to the Territory for short-term contracts are permitted entry provided that they have a pre-approved Worker Self Isolation Plan.
The Northwest Territories and Nunavut agreed to form a two-Territory travel bubble in order to allow their residents to travel between both Territories without having to self-isolate.
On June 15, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government implemented a new system at the Fort Smith border. Residents of the Territory and of Alberta may apply to obtain an access pass.
On June 17, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, businesses making investments aligned with the Territorial reopening plan can now apply for funding from the Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development Program. Eligible investments associated with COVID-19 include:
- structural changes required to protect employees (i.e. Plexiglas shields);
- capital improvements (i.e. drive-through windows or outdoor patios for restaurants);
- investments related to shifting operations online; and
- purchases of personal protective equipment for employees.
On June 18, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government confirmed that all schools have submitted plans for approval to reopen for the 2020-21 school year.
On June 30, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government announced changes to its policy of paying the costs for isolation centres. Starting July 1, 2020, non-residents will have to cover their own self-isolation costs.
On July 5, 2020, in the Northwest Territories, the government released its Reopening Schools Safely plan, featuring an overview of the health and safety measures schools will be required to implement for the 2020-21 school year.