Public Health Advisory – December 14, 2021

News Type: 
Advisories

Recommendations for Returning Travellers


YELLOWKNIFE December 13, 2021 – As anticipated, the Northwest Territories’ COVID-19 risk has shifted from community spread to risk associated with COVID-19 importation from travel. At this point the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) can clearly trace new COVID-19 infections to travellers returning from trips outside the NWT. Residents are being asked to take additional precautions upon their return from travel.

Omicron Variant

The emerging Omicron variant is spreading quickly. There are currently about 200 people in Canada whose COVID virus is confirmed as Omicron. About half of these people are in Ontario and the remaining dispersed to across all province and territories with the exception of Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Importantly, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term-Care is seeing a rapid increase in COVID case counts with the omicron variant estimated to cause about 30 percent of all recent cases. Omicron is causing community transmission in Ontario.

Initial assessment shows that the Omicron variant is more transmissible in homes and in community settings. The time it takes for case numbers to double is about three days. This means that in a very short period, many people are developing infections. Severity of Omicron infections is uncertain, but the sheer number of people getting infected can risk the capacity of our health care system.

The low percentage of severe infections of COVID-19 in the Omicron variant being reported so far is offset by increased transmissibility. It is likely that more people will get infected with this particular variant of concern, and as case numbers increase, so does the likelihood of severe health outcomes. 

Safety Nets

The Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) is recommending that residents returning from travel outside of the NWT be extremely diligent in monitoring for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infections especially within the first 72 hours (3 days) after their return.

This means that for the first 72 hours on return from travel you:

  • limit contacts between your household and others;
  • wear well-fitted and constructed masks in social settings, especially in indoor crowded settings;
  • avoid high risk activities; and
  • do not attend large gatherings.

These measures will protect your family, friends and NWT communities. 

Anyone regardless of travel and vaccination status should isolate and arrange for testing if they develop and COVID-19 symptoms. 

Vaccination

Vaccination remains a safe and effective way to avoid severe health outcomes from a COVID-19 infection. Two doses of the vaccine product provide some level of protection from the Omicron variant. The booster dose provides an increased level of protection. The CPHO continues to recommend that all residents not fully vaccinated reach out to their local health care provider to book a first, second or booster dose of the vaccine.

Attribution

All commentary is attributable to Dr. Kami Kandola, Chief Public Health Officer for the Northwest Territories.

Relevant links

Media Contact

Richard Makohoniuk
Manager, COVID Communications
COVID-19 Coordinating Secretariat
Department of Health and Social Services
Government of the Northwest Territories
richard_makohoniuk@gov.nt.ca