Iqaluit’s brewery sees opportunity, challenges in easing of COVID-19 restrictions
Confirmed infections, hospitalizations haven’t gone up in the past month, says chief public health officer
A month after the lifting of Nunavut’s COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, businesses like Nunavut Brewing Company are welcoming the return to pre-pandemic life.
“It’s been a pretty positive change for the most part,” said general manager Jason Oldham, who joined the business in September 2020.
The territory’s COVID-19 public health emergency, declared March 18, 2020, remained in place for 754 days. With it came capacity limits and shutdowns in response to outbreaks across the territory over the past two years.
The public health emergency was lifted April 11 and since then, businesses have been allowed to operate at full capacity.
Measures such as indoor masking — which used to be mandatory — are now left to the discretion of individual businesses and organizations.
Now, said Oldham, it’s time for Nunavut Brewing to start recovering from the challenges of the pandemic.
While the brewery was able to get help weathering the initial restrictions, Oldham said funding opportunities dried up with subsequent waves of the pandemic.
“[The] shutdown in January and February was hard this year because I didn’t have much else to fall back on,” he said of running the business.
“[Now] we’re able to actually pay some bills and keep up with stuff.”
But with the easing of rules, the brewery’s employees have had to manage COVID-19 outbreaks within the organization themselves.
Nunavut Brewing did not have its own set of COVID-19 guidelines, but after a number of staff recently tested positive, Oldham said, managers “had to come up with it pretty quickly.”
The business ended up shutting down for five days after staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
Oldham said the company made the decision in order to avoid the spread of the disease and ensure everyone who had it recovered.
Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, said feedback from businesses in the territory has been mixed since restrictions were lifted.
Returning to full capacity has been good for places like restaurants and bars, but without a public health emergency order, isolation for anyone infected with COVID-19 cannot be mandated, which leads to a higher chance of staff or clients being exposed.
“It’s entirely understandable that some business owners are nervous about that,” Patterson said.
While Patterson said he has heard anecdotally of a rising number of COVID-19 cases, key indicators such as hospitalizations, medevac trips and lab-confirmed cases — have not changed since the emergency measures were lifted a month ago.
“It’s reassuring,” he said.
Patterson gave credit to vaccination for hospitalizations and other indicators remaining stable. According to Health Canada, as of April 24, 81.63 per cent of Nunavut residents ages five and older had received at least two vaccine doses, while 40.7 per cent had received a booster shot.
But he emphasized a COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness wanes after four to five months, meaning more booster doses will be needed.
“One of the messages we need to get out to everybody is that it is important to get your vaccination up to date,” he said.