Construction workers coming to Nunavut must complete 14-day isolation first
Minister says 400 to 500 workers will come to Nunavut this season to work in 19 communities
All construction workers coming to Nunavut this season will need to self-isolate in a southern hotel before doing so, says the Government of Nunavut.
This falls in line with the GN’s COVID-19 travel restrictions, which require all Nunavut residents to self-isolate in one of four isolation hubs for 14 days before returning to the territory.
Since March 24, only Nunavut residents and critical workers have been permitted to enter the territory.
Lorne Kusugak, minister of community and government services, said 19 of Nunavut’s 25 hamlets want construction projects to go ahead in their communities this summer and fall.
“Municipalities had the full say to decide whether or not these projects should proceed,” Kusugak said, speaking at a news conference on Thursday, May 28.
That includes 50 capital projects valued at $600 million, Kusugak said.
“We need to balance the long-term infrastructure needs for communities with the current COVID-19 restrictions,” Kusugak said.
All construction workers coming from outside Nunavut will self-isolate for 14 days at hotel sites in Ottawa and Quebec City. Some may also self-isolate in the existing hubs, Kusugak said.
“The GN will control and monitor these measures at these isolation facilities in the south during the 14 days, including up until workers board their planes,” Kusugak said.
To date, 100 construction workers have booked stays in the isolation hubs. Kusugak said he expects an additional 125 workers to book by Sunday.
Kusugak said he also expects 400 to 500 construction workers to move through the territory during the season.
The GN said the only additional cost to the government for the already-approved construction projects will be paying for the 14-day isolation stays for construction workers, which include meals.
“Right now the construction companies that are coming up to do the work have contractual obligations that were there to begin with. The only extra, additional cost would be the isolation hubs and having them to sit in isolation for two weeks,” Kusugak said.
Kusugak said the GN and contracted construction companies are still negotiating “what kind of remuneration they will have while they stay in the hubs.”
Companies working on private projects, as opposed to municipal projects, will be responsible for paying their workers’ wages during the 14 days, Kusugak said.
Outside travel to Nunavut “highest risk” of COVID-19
When the Government of Nunavut released its plan for easing COVID-19 restrictions on May 25, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said travel restrictions would be the last measures lifted.
“This is because right now travel into Nunavut from outside of the territory represents the highest risk,” Patterson said on Thursday.
The plan, called Nunavut’s Path, states border restrictions would stay in place until “we have more information about effective therapies and/or a vaccine for COVID-19.”
That would also include the isolation hubs, Patterson said on Monday.
But on Thursday, Patterson clarified that there are several conditions that could be met to have border restrictions lifted. Those include development of a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, indication that COVID-19 is under control in neighbouring jurisdictions through a decrease in cases and minimal community transmission, and sustainable and ongoing diagnostic capacity in every Nunavut community.
“Unfortunately, many of these factors are outside of our control, but we will continue to monitor the evolving global situation. As always, our decisions surrounding the border measures will be guided by evidence and will be designed to protect and preserve the health and safety of Nunavummiut throughout this global pandemic,” Patterson said.