In reversal, Nunavut says travellers won’t have to pay to self-isolate

Territorial government continues to urge residents to stay home

Nunavut’s finance minister, George Hickes, says that Nunavut’s cabinet has concluded it would be too complicated to force residents who are travelling to pay for their mandatory self-isolation stays. (File photo)

By Meagan Deuling
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Government of Nunavut is backtracking on its plans to charge some residents returning from southern Canada for the cost of their mandatory self-isolation stays.

Instead, on Wednesday, May 6, the GN announced that it would continue to foot the cost of residents self-isolating in hotels for 14 days before returning home to the territory.

On Friday, May 1, the GN said that any residents returning from non-essential travel would have to pay isolation fees—$2,100 for one person and $1,050 for each additional member of their party.

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq said today that the aim of the policy was to deter Nunavummiut from travelling.

“Travel at this time is a risk and we don’t want to undo all the hard work we have done,” Savikataaq said.

The premier apologized for the confusion caused by the GN’s change of tack, but he said he wants Nunavummiut to seriously reconsider travelling at this time.

“Going down to do your sealift [shopping] as normally planned every year is not essential travel,” Savikataaq said.

But Savikataaq said the GN does not want to unnecessarily financially burden Nunavummiut by forcing them to pay the costs of their self-isolation stays.

Finance Minister George Hickes said another reason the decision was reversed is because it would have been complicated to implement.

He said trying to get Nunavummiut to pay for the hotels, security and transportation to the airport would have been a burden on public servants.

“At this time as a cabinet we felt that it wasn’t worth proceeding,” he said.

On Monday, May 4, Savikataaq said that paying to isolate Nunavummiut before they return to the territory has cost the GN over $2 million so far.

There are some cases, Hickes said, where Nunavummiut have had to self-isolate for longer than 14 days. That’s usually because of the logistics of making sure they connect with the right flights that get them to their community in the most efficient way possible, he said.

Depending on the isolation hub they’re staying in, Hickes said that on average this costs the GN $300 per extra day.

But Hickes said that the isolation hubs are worth it, despite their considerable costs.

“We can still sit here today and say that we have zero cases,” he said.

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(21) Comments:

  1. Posted by okay on

    Can the same thing be accomplished by having the quarantine being done In Nunavut in one of the communities that have direct flights from the south? This plan may even be better since it avoid contamination going to the airport from the hotel in the south. It is a lot of money being spent by the GN outside of Nunavut that should go to the local economy and local people instead. Also if someone lives alone, then that person can go directly to their home and wait it out.

    • Posted by No thanks on

      No thank you, we don’t want the virus in our community, if you travel south keep it there.

  2. Posted by Why u dum on

    Joe has flip flopped more that Donald Trump. I have lost confidence in his ability. Please Mr Quassa, reverse your decision, call the leg back into session. John Main then should ask for a vote of confidence. John Main for new premier!

    • Posted by Beware The False Prophet on

      It’s unbelievable that anyone would think for a brief moment that the Premier of Nunavut would provide any media briefing without data from their subordinates.
      This virus is a brand new learning curve for everyone.
      I don’t blame him for his mindset.
      It’s not his fault that he is surrounded by a few non-Inuk public servants and teachers that have become complacent in their positions and chose to feather their own nests instead of pushing forward the ideology of what Nunavut was to be when formed 21 years ago.
      From a viewpoint of a Nunavummiut but non-Inuk, all Premiers of Nunavut should be Inuk. It’s the team that they are supported by (regardless of heritage) that should have the fortitude to ensure the prosperity of the territory is paramount and the initial vision of what could be is brought to fruition.

      • Posted by Why u Dum on

        Wrong, John Main is the perfect example of Nunavut education system can produce. A rational, fully bilingual qaullunut. Read and write Inuktitut. He has integrity and knows how to make decisions. Unlike the leaders we have now

        • Posted by Beware The False Prophet on

          I know he is a good man…and it’s something to be very proud of that he can speak, read, and write Inuktitut…but we are surrounded by federal leaders who can do the same in French. It definitely doesn’t make them great leaders.

          • Posted by Racist BS Alert on

            One thing I have learned painfully since moving to Nunavut is the profound level of ignorance people here share about how the world is. Mostly this is a product of a poor education. I suppose it is also to be expected in such an isolated and insular place. Here is a perfect example, someone who thinks being an ‘Inuk’ is some kind of special qualification to be anything. Well, how else could it be when an entire population has been coddled by myths of its inherently special identity. These two things make for quite the juxtaposition. It would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic.

            • Posted by a on

              Perhaps you should become friends with a few Inuk men and women before you make such strong commitments

  3. Posted by QallunaatTeacher on

    Until Nunavut addresses the irrationality of allowing those who have been quarantined for fourteen days and those deemed essential workers who have NOT been quarantined or tested at all prior to boarding (and are simply seated in a different section), this quarantine policy makes very little sense.

    • Posted by John K on

      It’s hard not to see the whole thing as arbitrary if not punitive. I’ve gotten a major “how dare they; if they don’t like it here” vibe from quite a few people I’ve spoken to.

  4. Posted by Qiniq on

    It was fair to say to anyone if you want to go to NU then you have to pay for 14 days to prevent sickness etc. It was understood that it is for necessary for travel to keep thousands well. If you changed it should have been a discount but not full GN costs when there is so much need for NU . Too much admin cost and complicated? Easy… pay the hotel and stay 14 days then travel.

  5. Posted by Ben on

    Travel to Nunavut should be restricted during this time to only essential workers and for medical, with the virus still spreading and not flatlining GN is asking for trouble.

    If people want to go down for shopping or whatever reason now they have their hotel paid for on their way back.
    Testing should also be done for everyone coming into Nunavut, including essential workers.

  6. Posted by Sir Angut on

    Next point is;
    Hotels would have to have an order to take a quaranteed person.
    Right or wrong.
    Also would they take a non paying person, because going south and buying important things can take so much money.
    Then does this help mental and emotional health already stressed out by virus.

  7. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    This may have not become so complicated if instead of “recommendations” we had actual “laws”. I’m all for “rights” but no at the expense of my health. ALL travel with the exception of medical and essential travel to the south should be banned until safe to do so. If you should decide to go, the border back is closed. Not complicated and easy to enforce.

    • Posted by Logical on

      I totally agree! I think this Government, who seems to be a reactionary Government. appears to have reversed its decision because of the negative press the Premier received for making a careless comment about the teachers. Non-essential travel is banned mostly everywhere, so why wouldn’t Nunavut do the same? This shouldn’t be solely about teachers, it’s about everyone. If people decide to leave for non-essential reasons, why should Government have to pay for Food and Shelter for 14 days, if and when they decide to return? Mr. Minister responsible for Finance and Heath, you have to be fiscally responsible for the decisions you are making in addition to the Health of our population. Maybe being the Minister responsible for both is creating a conflict?

      • Posted by Peter on

        I usually don’t agree much with Paul but I have to agree with him on this one, Nunavut should be closed for travel, only under medical travel where it is really necessary.
        I also agree this government is too reactionary, they have been lucky so far but like everything else luck runs out in time.
        Better protocols in place will help much more to keeping Covid-19 out of Nunavut.

        • Posted by Okay on

          So let me see. You want Nunavimiut to travel to other jurisdictions to avail themselves of other tax payers funded medical systems . And by the way keep those other people out of Nunavut because they may get us sick. The ultimate in duplicity. Then if we think of reciprocal treatment as the right thing to do, then nunavumuits should be quarantined for 14 days before they are allowed to travelled to Ontario, Manitoba, NWT, and Alberta. Of course it is a stupid idea…

  8. Posted by Permanent quarantine on

    Perhaps the best solution for Nunavut is to maintain the 14-day isolation on a permanent basis and at both ends. To make it really effective put a quarantine in place for ALL travellers – regardless of essential or non-essential status.

    Make the rules apply whether traveller is business or pleasure, medical or not, essential or non, politician or private citizen. No exceptions for doctors or airplane pilots, teachers or engineers, youth or elders. Test everyone at both ends, airport or seaport.

    We can track and trace and test and treat all current cases of infectious diseases, including TB, VD, HIV, Influenza. Eradicate everything. And then tie a big bow around NU.

    No more infectious diseases. We can eat and smoke and drink ourselves to death and live infection-free until then.

    • Posted by Testing on

      Testing should definitely be done more, especially for people traveling to Nunavut. Along with the 14 day quarantine.

  9. Posted by Sam on

    HahahaH you nailed it perfect

  10. Posted by Observer on

    At this time of year many people in Nunavut are planning for summer vacations. If someone leaves for vacation they MUST quarantine before they come back.
    So now they need to take an extra two weeks of vacation. Will government/employers give people extra time? Why should government cover costs for vacationers leaving Nunavut and potentially bringing back the virus? The cost for a family of 5 would be significant.
    I agree that the government should pay for medical travel quarantine but not for vacationers.
    And there are services that can do sealift shopping. Or get a friend/family in the south to do it. Shopping is not the same in the south anyway.
    The absolute goal must be keeping the virus out of Nunavut. There are too many people here who would be list if this horrible disease got into the territory.
    Suck it up people and look at big picture not just small inconveniences to you.

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