Iqaluit’s public health restrictions to ease this week
‘We’re in a very good position,’ says Patterson
Starting Thursday, public health restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 in Iqaluit will be relaxed, the Government of Nunavut announced Monday.
This news comes as the number of active cases in the territory dropped into single digits. There were nine cases across Nunavut on Monday, after another person in Iqaluit recovered from the disease and no new cases were reported.
Dr. Michael Patterson, the territory’s chief public health officer, said that Nunavut’s capital is seeing falling case counts of the respiratory disease and high uptake of the Moderna vaccine among adults.
“As vaccination rates climb and as people have restricted their activity, the spread is quite low,” he said, explaining which factors make it safe to ease restrictions in Iqaluit.
“We’re in a very good position,” Patterson said Monday during a media briefing at the legislative assembly.
Despite this, waiting until Thursday to ease the restrictions provides a bit of time to see if cases begin to rise again.
“We want to make sure that things are stable from the weekend,” Patterson said.
“If we see a significant increase in the number of households involved, then we have to revisit those plans.”
Public health measures are being eased gradually in case they do trigger increased transmission.
Another reason measures are eased gradually is because health teams are never certain they have caught all the active cases, Patterson said, explaining the importance of surveillance testing.
Later this week, a Department of Health van will drive to various locations and park there and do walk-up screening in areas that haven’t been screened yet.
As of Thursday, people will be able to have indoor home gatherings with five people beyond household members, while outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people will be allowed. The government continues to urge residents to keep their social circles small.
Residents at long-term care facilities, continuing care centres, boarding homes and health centres may be allowed up to two visitors from their immediate families, with masks being required during these visits.
Daycares may open, and schools may reopen with a blend of in-school and remote learning.
Businesses and government offices may also open with mask-wearing and physical distancing practices in place.
Indoor gatherings for support groups and group counselling can reopen for up to 20 people and indoor events can take place for up to 25 people or 25 per cent of the facility’s capacity, whichever is less.
Places of worship may open for in-person services, with no singing, for up to 25 people or 25 per cent capacity, whichever is less.
Arenas may allow 25 people or 25 per cent of the facility’s capacity, whichever is less. There can be no more than 25 spectators and no team sports.
Libraries and galleries may open for individual and family visits. Facilities holding fitness sessions may open for solo workouts with masks. All public playgrounds, municipal parks, and territorial parks may open, but their buildings remain closed.
Travel in and out of Iqaluit continues to be restricted, and masks remain mandatory in indoor public places and when within six feet of another person.
Personal services such as hairdressers and beauty salons, as well as theatres remain closed. Restaurants and licensed establishments remain restricted to takeout only.
“If we start to see case counts rising again, after we’ve eased measures, then we have to either stay the same or go back,” Patterson said.
Outside of Iqaluit, public health orders will remain as they are for now.
“There’s still that risk of introduction to other communities in the Baffin region,” Patterson said.
Kinngait could see measures ease as early as next week if the community continues to see no cases and nobody in isolation, Patterson said.
Broader reopening plans, as seen in other jurisdictions around the country, can probably be expected within the next week or two, adding that it depends a lot on what happens in Iqaluit over that time period.
Pfizer vaccine rollout announced
Following last week’s announcement that Nunavut is expecting to receive its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine sometime during the week of June 7, the government has unveiled its full youth vaccination schedule.
“We want to get as many people as possible vaccinated,” Patterson said. “There is no set goal. it's just as many as possible.”
The community clinics for youth between the ages of 12 and 17 will begin on June 15 and run through July.
In Iqaluit, the first Pfizer doses for youth will be available at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s mass vaccination clinic from June 16 to June 19. The clinic will also administer the Moderna vaccine to adults.
Outside of Iqaluit, Pfizer vaccine appointments will be available by appointment only. Those wishing to book an appointment can call their local health centre.
For a complete list of Pfizer vaccination clinics or for more information on the vaccine, visit the Government of Nunavut’s COVID-19 vaccine website.