Nunavut must meet three conditions before lifting COVID-19 restrictions

“If we lift these restrictions too early, we will increase the risk to Nunavummiut”

Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, says restrictions but in place during the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be lifted in Nunavut until three conditions are met. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

By Emma Tranter

Nunavut will need to meet certain criteria before it can lift restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, the territory’s chief medical officer says.

Some jurisdictions in Canada are already looking to lift those restrictions, Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said at a news conference on Wednesday, April 29.

“I’d like to speak in more detail about what needs to happen before we do the same,” Patterson said.

Three conditions need to be met before Nunavut can start relaxing its existing restrictions, he said:

  1. In-territory diagnostic capacity. “This means that we need to be able to implement a rapid, accurate and comprehensive COVID testing program here in Nunavut,” Patterson said.
  2. “Significant” indication that rates of COVID-19 are decreasing in other jurisdictions that Nunavummiut often visit. Those jurisdictions include Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
  3. No active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut.

“The nature of these conditions means that it is difficult to assign a specific timeline to the reopening, but fulfilment of these is necessary to minimize risk to public health and safety,” Patterson said.

Patterson said he is aware that people are eager to go back to work, visit loved ones and engage in social activities.

“However, if we lift these restrictions too early, we will increase the risk to Nunavummiut. If we aren’t careful about how we transition back … we could effectively undo all the hard work and sacrifices that have been made over the past seven weeks,” he said.

“It is as important as ever that we stay the course. Maintain social distancing, stay home when possible, wash your hands often. These measures continue to be the best defence against COVID-19 and the best way to protect our families, our communities and our territory.”

The Government of Nunavut has also extended the territory’s public health emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic until May 14. In Nunavut, an order to declare a public health emergency expires after 14 days.

There are still no confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut.

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by John WP Murphy on

    I appreciate all the great work you and your team are doing Dr Patterson, Thank you sir! Please ensure that the communities are enforcing your directions. Iqaluit is following short in many areas including the social distancing and crowding at the beer and wine store.

    • Posted by John Smith on

      I’m not sure if you’re trying to place blame on the beer and wine store for the crowding outside of the store but on the inside physical distancing is being enforced with a set limit on how many people are allowed to wait in the store at at time, tape to direct people on where to stand, and only allowing one customer to approach the till at a time.

      In the mornings lines in front of the store are made to direct people where to stand and as the day goes on and with the traffic coming into the store by the end of the day it may erode. There are also two buckets to show where should stand.

      The beer and wine store, a government run establishment, enforces the rules as set by the government inside the store.

      If you are worried about the crowd outside of the store maybe you should contact the by-law.

      • Posted by Time for church services next to the beer store on

        As gathering laws are not in force in front of Minister Hickes beloved store , it is time to use the storefront as an opportunity to break the law without consequences. As funerals are now prohibited, let us hold them in front of the beer store so more family members can attend.

  2. Posted by More Information on

    I’m happy that the GN is putting out some more detailed information but I argue that we still need more. I would prefer the media be asking hard questions instead of just posting GN communications. Nunatsiaq vis a vis #1, have you asked what the projected timeline is on this??? That seems like important information so the public knows what to expect and knows what steps have been taken over the past several weeks to address testing capacity for Nunavummiut. Vis a vis #2, given travel is restricted and we have no confirmed cases, why do we need to see numbers go down elsewhere to ease physical distancing restrictions internally? When borders to these jurisdictions open again, we will need to be much more vigilant. It would seem logical that now is an opportunity for providing some relief when the future – with open borders – will be uncertain. Is anyone at the GN explaining this? Why are Manitoba and New Brunswick more confident given, especially given they do still have some cases? Is it their testing capacity better than ours? If they have better access to testing can the GN explain and address the disparity? Please bring us more articles like this one but also follow up with questions that provide the public with more rationale.

  3. Posted by Okay So Where Are We As OF April 29, 2020 With “In-territory diagnostic capacity” on

    Well its sounds good on paper Dr. Patterson, so were are we really at with your first priority “In-territory diagnostic capacity”

    So how do you plan to achieve “In-territory diagnostic capacity” Are you planning on opening up a test facility in every community, or just one in each of the three regions of Nunavut, or are you planning to use a portable rapid covid-19 test kits such as the one made in Canada by Spartan Biotech.

    We would like some answers please. Please give us a time frame that you plan to start to implement this “In-territory diagnostic capacity”. Have you placed an order for this type of kit. If so how many, enough for every community ??? When do we expect them to arrive.

    So can we expect some of these answers at your briefing tomorrow ???

    I Hope So !!

  4. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    I’m not up on the Public Health Emergency legislation but is it open ended, allowing unlimited 2 week renewals?
    I hope not. I would hope that something this important would get reviewed by the entire Legislative Assembly after the initial 2 week period and one or two renewals.
    Shouldn’t there be some way to reconvene the Assembly on an emergency basis, possibly a virtual meeting?

    • Posted by Roy Donovan on

      What ya saying,,,,,that the CMO would just keep adding 2 week intervals for no reason? Highly doubtful. The purpose is to give the CMO the ability to respond to a health crisis, What would the Leg offer to that situation? Again just nonsensical thinking.

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