Take-home rapid testing available to airport travellers entering the NWT over holidays

News Type: 
Public Service Announcement

YELLOWKNIFE December 21, 2021 – The Government of the NWT is making 20,000 take-home rapid tests available for travellers entering the NWT from outside the territory. The kits will be available as travellers arrive at the Yellowknife and Inuvik airports on flights originating outside the NWT. Yellowknife airport will have kits available starting December 21 and Inuvik will have kits available soon after they arrive on December 22.

It is expected that new cases of COVID-19 will enter the NWT over the holidays. Making these tests available is a way to screen for those new cases early. The NWT Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) is asking travellers to use the tests on their day of arrival into the NWT (Day 0) and again 72 hours later. Each test kit contains 5 individual tests. The Omicron variant is becoming the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Canada. Evidence indicates that it has a shorter incubation period than the Delta variant. Therefore, testing, along with limiting contact for the first 72 hours after returning from travel will assist in preventing COVID-19 spread during and after the holidays.

The 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. The BTNX tests being distributed at airports are a valuable tool, however as with any rapid test kit, there is a higher rate of false negatives compared to other types of tests. A false negative means that the virus is present at levels too low to be picked up with this type of test.

“It is extremely important that people using these tests do not become complacent when it comes to monitoring for symptoms,” said CPHO Dr. Kami Kandola. “It is also more important now to ask yourself every day, how do I feel, and run through a checklist of symptoms that you may not pay attention to without putting in that conscious effort.”

Travellers to the NWT are required to undertake symptoms checks upon return. Omicron symptoms appear to present more like the common cold (runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing, and sore throat). Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of travel and vaccination status should isolate immediately and arrange for laboratory testing at a testing clinic or health centre. 

The CPHO is also asking travellers to be extra vigilant within the first 72 hours (3 days) after their return when it comes to other safety measures.

  • 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.

Finally, third doses or a booster dose provides an increased level of protection against the Omicron variant. 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. Booster doses are now open to those 16 years of age or older.


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

Relevant links


Media Contact
COVID-19 Coordinating Secretariat
Department of Health and Social Services
Government of the Northwest Territories