Halloween a “go” for Nunavut
Recommendations and guidelines in place to reduce the risk of spreading a virus
Nunavummiut of all ages who are looking forward to a night of tricks and treats can rest assured that Halloween has been given the go-ahead in the territory.
The announcement came as Dr. Michael Patterson, the territory’s chief public health officer, gave his concluding remarks during a COVID-19 press conference on Thursday, Oct. 8.
“I will end on a happy note and let Nunavut’s young and young at heart,” said Patterson, as he raised his hand, “know that Halloween is a go for Nunavut.”
The Department of Health along with the Department of Community and Government Services have released a set of recommendations and guidelines to help reduce the risk of spreading a virus.
Trick-or-treaters are encouraged to go out with immediate family members in groups no larger than five. Where possible, groups are reminded to practise physical distancing, meaning only one group of trick-or-treaters getting treats at a time at each house. The guidelines also clarify that Halloween masks are not a good replacement for medical and non-medical masks.
Those wishing to hand out candy may do so as long as they are not showing any symptoms of a viral illness. The guidelines also recommend that those handing out candy should watch out for trick-or-treaters and meet them on their doorstep, avoiding the use of high-touch surfaces like doorbells.
Indoor trick-or-treating due to inclement weather or other factors, such as polar bears, is also allowed.
A full list of the guidelines can be found here.
Public health measures relaxed
Earlier this week, on Oct. 5, the government relaxed public health measures for recreation, leisure and community groups in the territory with a new order on social distancing and gatherings.
In the rest of Canada, COVID-19 cases have spiked. On Oct. 5, more than 2,800 new cases were reported, setting a record for the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began. A day later, over 2,360 cases were reported, the third-largest increase.
Despite this, Patterson is confident that the territory’s continued travel restrictions combined with its increased access to testing and improved turnaround times for test results will be enough to keep Nunavut safe.
COVID-19 testing is now available in both Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit.
“Our pilot project to reduce turnaround times for testing has been successful and has been integrated into our operations in the Baffin region,” said Patterson, who added that as of Oct. 14 that project will be extended to both the Kitikmeot and Kivalliq regions.
Patterson also said he believes that the loosening of restrictions will reduce some of the more harmful effects of the measures that were in place, including the impacts on youth groups and after-school activities.
“They had very little access to recreation outside of school and now that things are better for the territory, we wanted to improve their access,” said Patterson.
The easing of restrictions also means that schools have the ability to allow private groups to use their facilities for activities like basketball or badminton.
“Individual education authorities have to prepare their facilities for this and do their own risk assessment to make it work for local circumstances,” said Patterson.
“Hopefully they’ll be able to do that in good time.”
Although the relaxed measures have opened up numerous recreational activities to Nunavummiut, physical distancing will remain in place and the lines outside places like the post office and Iqaluit’s beer and wine store will remain.
As winter approaches, Finance Minister George Hickes said that his department has had some early discussions on what can be done to mitigate the beer and wine store lineup and prevent customers from having to stand in the cold for too long.
“But if you do have to leave I strongly recommend that when you know your travel schedule that you contact the isolation request email, so that you can register your schedule as soon as possible to alleviate the wait times as much as possible.”
According to Patterson, the Government of Nunavut is not considering increasing the capacity of isolation hubs in the south to accommodate a higher amount of holiday traffic.
“There’s a very real chance if … a lot of people are travelling south there may be a wait time to get into the hubs,” said Patterson.
“That may not be pleasant, but it’s the reality of the situation.”
Although Hickes couldn’t say how many people have made isolation hub reservations for January, he did remind non-essential travellers that his department has no control over medical traveller demand and that their needs take precedence.
“You may have a reservation established for a certain period of time and put your request in well in advance, but it still may not be able to be accommodated,” he said.
Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases in the south and reports of Ottawa-area hospitals nearing capacity, Patterson says that nothing has changed for medical travellers and no medevacs have needed to be diverted.
When asked if there is a point where he would try to keep medical travellers in Nunavut for procedures the territory is equipped to handle, such as pregnancies, Patterson responded that it very much depends on the territory’s capacity to deliver those services safely.
“It’s a balance of risks and benefits,” he said.