Staff with the Northwestern Health Unit are advising against holiday travel plans this year, and have released new travel recommendations to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the region.

For travel within Ontario, residents are asked to use the provincial COVID-19 response framework as a guide. People in higher transmission areas should avoid all non-essential travel to lower transmission areas, like from an Orange zone to a Green zone.

The NWHU region was moved into the Yellow-Protect category late last month, but we could move back to Green-Prevent by Christmas day. The Thunder Bay area is currently under an Orange-Restrict level of protection.

Those returning to northwestern Ontario from a high risk area are asked to drastically reduce close contact with others for 10 to 14 days after arriving home to help lower the risk of exposure.

For out of province travel, you’re asked to self-isolate or drastically reduce close contact with others for 10 to 14 days after returning home, but staying home is still the best way to protect yourself and others.

However, Manitoba border communities who do not travel west of Falcon Lake are exempt, as they use the City of Kenora as their main service hub.

As well as staying socially-distant, all residents are also asked to wear masks whenever possible, to continue following proper hand hygiene and to stay home from all celebrations or gatherings if you are ill. Anyone who develops symptoms should self-isolate and get tested as soon as possible.

“Do not host or attend gatherings indoors, stay 2 metres from anyone not in your household, and self-isolate if you have any symptoms of COVID-19. These are proven ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” explains Medical Officer of Health for the NWHU, Dr. Kit Young-Hoon.

“People can spread the virus before they have symptoms, so someone’s health at the time of a visit is not a reliable way to determine whether or not they have COVID-19. Stay home and stay safe this holiday season!”

The NWHU notes that those who live alone are able to visit with another social bubble or household over the holidays, in recognition of how public health measures can affect residents’ mental health.

For more information:
NWHU details Christmas’ COVID-19 restrictions
Health unit suggests flexible holiday travel plans