Nunavut government releases plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions in the territory
As of June 1, daycares and parks can open, and outdoor gatherings of 25 will be permitted
(Updated at 4 p.m.)
The Government of Nunavut has released its guide to easing COVID-19 restrictions in the territory.
The document, called “Nunavut’s Path: moving forward during COVID-19,” outlines low-, medium- and high-risk measures that may be lifted over time.
It does not outline specific dates for when restrictions will be lifted.
“Trying to forecast specific dates and timelines for when we can lift our public health measures would be inaccurate and frankly insincere,” Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said at a news conference this morning.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is evolving rapidly and every single week yields new information that shapes our strategy and our public health measures.”
The process of lifting restrictions will begin next Monday, June 1, Patterson said.
Starting June 1, only the following will be allowed:
• Daycares will be permitted to open up for regular business.
• The size limit for outdoor gatherings will increase to 25 people.
• Territorial parks will be reopened for outdoor activities only. All park buildings will remain closed.
• Municipal playgrounds will be re-opened.
“These particular conditions have been selected because they are deemed low risk,” Patterson said.
Given the high risk of transmission, the number of people who can gather indoors will remain at five people, Patterson said.
And although municipal parks can reopen, it is ultimately up to each hamlet whether they want to ease that restriction in their community, Patterson said.
Patterson also said he will meet with daycares to discuss their reopening plans, and will review guidelines and recommendations on enhanced hygiene.
Every two weeks after June 1, Patterson will reassess the situation and decide whether to re-introduce restrictions, pause for more assessment, or ease restrictions to allow more programs and services to open.
“It is time for us to move forward. This does not mean that this pandemic is over. This does not mean the threat is passed. This means that we can cautiously begin our return to the activities we enjoy, knowing that at any time we may need to change our behaviour to protect ourselves from emerging threats,” Patterson said.
The lifting of restrictions will be announced by category: low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk measures. The plan is to start with the measures that involve the lowest risk, Patterson said.
“We will be announcing periodically, every two weeks or so…. We’ll try to give as much notice as we can. This gives us the flexibility to respond as things change.”
Examples of low-risk measures include opening daycares, opening parks and playgrounds, increasing the number of people participating in outdoor gatherings, opening work places, opening gyms for solo workouts and swims, providing in-person health-care services, opening retail outlets, and in-territory travel between communities.
Medium-risk measures include dining in restaurants, visits to long-term care facilities, opening hair salons, resuming in-person activities at the courts, and opening schools and college campuses.
High-risk measures include allowing indoor community feasts and concerts, lifting household visitor restrictions, and opening bars and pubs.
Travel restrictions, however, are expected to continue in some form until “we have more information about effective therapies and/or a vaccine for COVID-19,” the document states.
That includes the isolation hubs, where Nunavut residents returning to the territory must spend 14 days before boarding a plane.
“The isolation hubs will be one of the last, if not the last, restrictions to go and the easiest threshold for that is reliable treatment or vaccination. We will continue to monitor the evidence and look at other measures that might reduce the impact of, or other methods of reducing the impact of, closure of those hubs,” Patterson said.
Patterson said easing restrictions would also mean new public health orders will be issued.
It also means people should continue to practise personal protective measures, he said.
“No one is left unaffected by this pandemic, but our collective accountability has kept Nunavut safe so far. This accountability and responsibility needs to continue, and, as we loosen restrictions, we must continue to practise social distancing, stay away from others when we are sick and wash our hands often,” Patterson said.
And, as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, so will Nunavut’s plan to re-open, Patterson said.
“If the threat of COVID-19 increases, or eased public health measures are posing a potential public health threat to the territory, we may need to introduce or re-introduce certain conditions,” he said.
In addition to assessing the situation every two weeks, Patterson said the criteria that will “guide Nunavut’s path” include reliable in-territory testing, the status of COVID-19 transmission in the territory, and the status of COVID-19 transmission in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
There are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut.