Camping during the May long weekend is a staple activity in the Northwest Territories, but people won’t have that opportunity this spring, as the territory’s top doctor says allowing overnight camping is expected to be a month away.
The government unveiled its plan on Tuesday to roll back some of its public health restrictions under COVID-19. The plan will happen in phases, with the first phase potentially beginning as early as Friday.
Under the first phase, only day use areas and cook shelters within territorial parks will be allowed to open.
“Any overnight camping in both the territorial and private campgrounds, we are restricting it to phase two,” said Dr. Kami Kandola, the N.W.T.’s chief public health officer, during a media briefing Wednesday.
In phase two, campgrounds will be opened to a maximum of 50 people at a time, though that isn’t expected to occur until mid-to-late June.
Kandola said if residents are concerned that people are breaking the rules, they can contact Protect NWT.
Border check changes
Meanwhile, starting this week, the Highway 1 border checkstop will move from Enterprise, N.W.T., to the N.W.T.-Alberta border.
This change will make it easier for N.W.T. residents to access the Alexandra Falls day use site. Currently, residents need to provide personal information for crossing the checkpoint to reach the site.
“Many people want to get more outside and enjoy our lovely weather. There is a great deal of interest in our cabins, campgrounds and falls in that area,” said Ivan Russell, director of public safety with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.
With the border closed to non-essential travel, there have been questions of when restrictions might loosen with areas bordering with other provinces and territories.
Kandola said the question of allowing travel into those communities, without having to do a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period afterwards, has come up before.
She said this would be a multi-jurisdictional conversation to have, and the other jurisdictions would also have to agree to lift their restrictions.
2nd wave anticipated
“Some other territories may have a high threshold whether they would accept a shared border, so it’s not just about N.W.T., it’s about negotiations across two borders,” Kandola said.
“That conversation we can bring to the table, but it’s not something we can implement one-off. It has to be decided on both sides.”
Although Kandola said the N.W.T. border will be closed to non-residents until a vaccine for COVID-19 is produced and available, she said the territory would reconsider if they see containment, a decrease in community spread across Canada, and no second wave of the virus.
“We could anticipate lifting those travel restrictions earlier than when a new vaccine is developed,” Kandola said.
“We are anticipating, though, in the fall … a second and larger wave.”