Churches can reopen in Nunavik, but they may not just yet
Quebec dioceses to make the final call when places of worship can start to welcome back parishioners
Nunavik health authorities have given the green light for churches to reopen throughout the region, though it doesn’t mean they will just yet.
The Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services said on Wednesday, July 8, that churches are now authorized to hold mass under certain conditions. Parishioners who aren’t from the same household must keep a two-metre distance from each other, and parishioners should not make physical contact with anyone else, the health board said. That means no communion or cash donations.
The health board also advised parishioners to wear masks and to disinfect their hands upon entering and exiting the church.
But despite the approval of regional health authorities, the final say in the reopening of churches will come from the dioceses, in this case the Anglican Diocese of the Arctic and the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec.
On June 16, Anglican Bishop David Parsons published guidelines for the reopening of churches during the coronavirus pandemic.
Churches must apply to the bishop for permission to reopen and must agree to abide by applicable diocesan, provincial/territorial and municipal restrictions.
The Catholic church in Quebec has opted for a more gradual reopening, first allowing certain sacraments to take place, like baptisms or marriages, while enforcing strict distancing and disinfection measures, church leaders said earlier this month.
Neither St. Stephen Anglican church nor Notre-Dame-de-Fatima Catholic church in Kuujjuaq have opted to start hosting mass again.
Nunavik authorities have gradually been reopening services in the region since the beginning of June.
That’s despite the discovery of a new COVID-19 infection on July 2—the first in the region in about two months.
“Information that public health has collected so far indicates that the situation is under control,” said NRBHSS Executive Director Minnie Grey last week. “This positive test does not require us to shut down regular activities in the community.”
The health board said on July 9 that the individual was “doing well” and is no longer in isolation. Officials wouldn’t indicate the possible source of the infection.
As well, this past weekend an infected individual was intercepted before they got off a flight in Salluit, the health board said July 12. Because the infected person came from outside of Nunavik, the health board said they don’t count as another official case in the region.
Nunavik has been free of COVID-19 since May 5, but this new case brings the cumulative number of COVID-19 infections in the region to 17. Fifteen of those cases have been in Puvirnituq.
As of July 5, 1,386 people have been tested either in Nunavik or just before arriving in the region.
If you live in Nunavik and you think you might have COVID-19, do not visit your local health centre in person. Instead, call the Health-Info line at 1-888-662-7482 Monday through Friday from noon to 10 p.m.