Nunavut prepares for territory-wide COVID-19 lockdown
Territory’s COVID-19 cases have climbed to 26
Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, announced today that the entire territory will go into a lockdown for two weeks starting on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
Nunavut’s COVID-19 caseload climbed to 26 on Monday from 18, with six new cases being confirmed in Arviat and two additional cases being confirmed in Rankin Inlet.
There are two cases in Sanikiluaq, four in Rankin Inlet and 20 in Arviat.
Patterson announced the lockdown as an effort to stop the current outbreak from spreading any more than it has.
“Through our investigations, we have a concern that COVID-19 may spread to additional communities,” said Patterson, “which is why we are initiating a territory-wide lockdown with restrictions similar to what we saw in March and April.”
Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq expanded on the announcement by offering a metaphor: “Think of it as a circuit breaker, a chance to reset,” he said.
“We do not want to be back to the restrictions we had in the spring, but for the health and safety of Nunavummiut, this is necessary.”
Non-essential workplaces must close, and people must work from home if they are able to.
Patterson recommends residents wear masks in public places and when physical distancing is not possible. Masks are mandatory in the Kivalliq region, and Sanikiluaq.
Non-essential travel is not recommended. Schools are closed and students will learn either online or through take-home learning packages.
Daycares will be closed to everyone except children of essential workers.
Restrictions on private gatherings remain the same—outdoor gatherings of more than five people are not allowed, and a maximum of five people are allowed in dwellings, in addition to members of the household, though Patterson stressed that this limit is intended more in case of emergencies, like requiring tradespeople to enter a dwelling for urgent repair work.
“We really would strongly recommend that people not treat it as a loophole to have five people over to have a small party,” said Patterson, adding that having no guests over is ideal.
All recreation facilities are closed, and sporting activities and events are suspended.
Restaurants are takeout only and bars are closed.
Businesses that offer personal services such as haircuts and massages are closed.
Health centres and the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit are closed except for emergency services.
Visits to elder centers and long-term care centres is on hold for at least two weeks unless approved by the public health physician on call. Community members who are checking on elders are asked to maintain strict distancing and avoid going inside homes if possible.
Government of Nunavut services will be maintained. Staff will work from home when it’s possible to do so.
According to Patterson, the Department of Health will look for ways to isolate individuals who are homeless.
“Limiting any potential exposure to the virus is our best possible defence in Nunavut,” Patterson said.
There will be no changes to how Nunavut treats residents returning to the territory from the Northwest Territories travel bubble. It would be up to the N.W.T. government to make changes involving visits by Nunavut travellers, Patterson said.
For Nunavummiut currently in isolation hubs in the south, those “who want to wait a bit to see what’s happening can stay a little bit longer,” said Patterson, “but otherwise then returning home is fine.”
Patterson’s office will re-evaluate the effectiveness of the lockdown measures on Dec. 2.
“If we all do our part, we will be in a much better position in early December,” said Savikataaq.
“Please don’t take chances unless it’s absolutely necessary. Stay home and stay safe.”
Health Minister Lorne Kusugak concluded Monday’s press conference by urging Nunavummiut to focus on what is in their control.
“Now is not the time for everyone in Nunavut to be an investigator. Do not worry about who, what or how it got here,” he said.
“We ask [that] you worry about how we stop the spread and that starts with you, that starts with each and every one of us.”
Anyone who has reason to believe he or she has been exposed to COVID-19 is advised to call the COVID-hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., or notify their community health centre right away, and immediately self-isolate at home for 14 days. People should not go to the health centre in person.
The GN has scheduled its next news conference on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 11 a.m.
With files from Meagan Deuling and Dustin Patar