For the first time since March, residents of Nunavut can look forward to attending fitness classes, church services or meetings, with the easing of public health measures on Oct. 5. (File image)

Nunavut eases COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings

After-school sports, meetings of up to 100 are now possible

By Jane George

The Government of Nunavut has relaxed public health measures for recreation, leisure and community groups in the territory with its new order on social distancing and gatherings.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson announced the new order in the late afternoon of Monday, Oct. 5, although its measures had already been in effect since 12:01 a.m.

Gyms, fitness centres, cadet halls, recreation centres and private fitness clubs can now open for individual workouts, group fitness classes, youth groups, meetings of cadets and recreational sports, the new order said.

Previously, gyms, athletics facilities, recreation centres and fitness centres could open for individual workouts, but could not offer group workouts such as fitness classes.

The changes came as good news in Cambridge Bay, where the municipal youth council had lobbied for the expanded reopening of sports facilities.

“The Mayors Youth Advisory Council advocated their peers needs and worked to make it known that extracurricular activities are needed to maintain physical and mental health,” said Cambridge Bay Mayor Pamela Gross in an online statement last night. “They channeled their voice and banded together, and we are so proud of them for being that voice. We have wonderful youth in the community who are advocating for change. Quana to the CPHO and those who listened to our youth, we have happy community members.”

However, sports facility activities still cannot involve more than 25 people at one time or operate at more than 50 per cent of the space’s capacity as rated by the Nunavut fire marshal.

But the number of participants and officials at athletic events will also have to remain under 50 people or 50 per cent of the rated capacity of each space.

If there is a game, for instance, no more than 50 people can play and only up to 50 will be able to watch.

COVID-19 restrictions mean that tables are now spaced out at the Gallery Dining Room in Iqaluit’s Frobisher Inn, so that there are two metres between them. This won’t change under the new order, but occupancy can increase to 75 per cent, depending on the additional space used.(Photo by Ray Pieries)

The changes have an immediate impact on bars and restaurants. These can now open to 75 per cent capacity, up from 50 per cent.

This will be welcomed by restaurants such as the Frobisher Inn’s Gallery Dining Room, which had cut its occupancy by 50 per cent to comply with the earlier measures.

Social distancing measures, such as limiting groups to six people at a table, remain in effect in the new order.

But the new order does open the doors to larger gatherings—of up to 100 people or 75 per cent of the rated capacity of a room—for places of worship, meetings organized by governments, Inuit organizations and institutions of public government, conference facilities, community halls, rented meeting spaces, and theatres.

The spacious lounge at the soon-to-be-opened Aqsarniit Hotel and Conference Centre will be able to operate at 75 per cent with the easing of Nunavut’s COVID-19 restrictions. (Photo courtesy of QC)

This move will assist the launch of Iqaluit’s nearly finished Aqsarniit Hotel and Conference Centre. The meeting centre is intended to hold 550 to 600 people, but can be divided into three smaller spaces.

Libraries, museums, and galleries may now also open for “regular business,” the government said, although they will have to keep to 50 per cent capacity, as set by the Nunavut fire marshal.

In households, the number of people at gatherings can now go up to 15 people from 10.

For those who don’t obey the new order, there will be penalties: a $575 fine for individuals and a $2,875 fine for corporations.

The new order also detailed how masks must be worn by visitors to patients and elders and by essential workers when they arrive in the territory.

The RCMP and municipal bylaw enforcement officers are among those who will have the power to ensure compliance with the new measures.

On Oct. 1, Health Minister George Hickes extended the territory’s public health emergency until Oct. 15.

The Government of Nunavut says there are now nine positive cases of COVID-19 at the Hope Bay mine in western Nunavut and four presumptive cases of the new coronavirus. (Photo courtesy of TMAC)

There are still no confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut as the “attribution of the cases at Hope Bay mine is pending,” the government said in its Oct. 5 release on the new order.

The western Nunavut gold mine, owned by TMAC Resources Inc., first reported two COVID-19 cases on Sept. 21.

The government said on Oct. 5 that the number of confirmed and possible COVID-19 cases at Hope Bay gold now stands at 13—three more than on Oct. 2.

Following further testing at a lab in southern Canada, there are currently nine positive cases of COVID-19 at Hope Bay, the government said.

Four additional presumptive positive cases, an increase of three from Oct. 2, have been identified and are pending confirmatory testing.

Twelve people remain in isolation at the mine, the government said.

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