Iqaluit residents urged to follow public health orders over long weekend
‘There’s many, many more weekends to come, and we hope that we don’t give it all up over this weekend,’ health minister says
Ahead of the Victoria Day long weekend, the Government of Nunavut’s message to residents of Iqaluit was clear: keep following public health orders.
This comes as one new case of COVID-19 and 11 recoveries were reported in Iqaluit on Friday morning.
“Your work is starting to pay off and the proof in the numbers this morning show that,” said Health Minister Lorne Kusugak during a news conference at the legislative assembly.
But Kusugak also cautioned residents those numbers could change quickly if the virus is given the opportunity to spread.
“There’s many, many more weekends to come and we hope that we don’t give it all up over this weekend,” he said.
There were 45 active cases of COVID-19 in the territory as of Friday, the lowest number since April 24.
Forty-four of those cases are in Iqaluit and one remains in Kinngait.
Overnight Thursday, the low-barrier shelter in Iqaluit, operated by the Uquutaq Society, reopened. Earlier during the outbreak, the facility was forced to close following COVID-related staffing shortages.
Meanwhile, staff at the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre have returned to work following negative test results after a staff member was potentially exposed to COVID-19 earlier this week.
Premier Joe Savikataaq announced Friday a free Nunavut-wide isolation hamper support program meant to provide two weeks of food and essential items to anyone in isolation.
The hampers will include fruits, vegetables, dairy products, non-perishable goods, bread and country food when available.
Savikataaq added that modified isolation hampers are available to accommodate allergies and dietary restrictions, as well as discretionary add-on items.
Since the program began in Iqaluit a week ago, 116 hampers have been delivered.
Savikataaq asked those in isolation not to call the COVID hotline to request a hamper. He said hampers will be offered when health staff conduct their mandatory check-ins.
As of Friday there are 196 people isolating in Iqaluit.
Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, asked residents to continue to cooperate with surveillance testing. That’s when residents are tested for COVID-19 in areas where the risk of exposure to the virus is higher than normal.
“The more people who participate, the more effective the surveillance program will be,” he said.
“It is one of our better tools in containing an outbreak.”
Only people who test positive are expected to isolate.
Iqaluit’s surveillance sites include some residential buildings, where there could be contact between residents.
Spread of the virus is much more likely to be caused by being in the same space for at least a few minutes, and much less likely to be from common surfaces like door handles, Patterson said.
Patterson said he was not aware of any cases of COVID-19 being identified through surveillance testing in residential buildings.
Given the success of preventing the spread of the virus to communities outside of Iqaluit, Patterson announced an easing of public health orders in most Qikiqtani communities.
Effective on Monday, May 24, public health measures in all Qikiqtani communities outside of Iqaluit and Kinngait will be the same as they are in Rankin Inlet.
Schools in these communities will implement Stage 2 of the Department of Education’s action plan. Elementary school instruction will take place at school, and middle and high school instruction will be a blend of in-school and remote learning. These students will attend school two or three days per week with staggered schedules to reduce physical interaction.
In Iqaluit, schools will remain closed and schools in Kinngait will remain at Stage 3.
Due to the sitting of Nunavut’s legislature, scheduled to start May 27, for three weeks, televised COVID-19 news conferences will be put on hold.
Instead, regular updates will be available online, through Government of Nunavut social media channels and through media briefings.