Nunavut to drop isolation hub rule for fully vaccinated travellers
Easing of year-old travel requirement to take effect next Monday
Nunavut is changing its isolation hub requirement to allow travellers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the territory without spending two weeks isolating in a designated hotel.
The change will take effect next Monday, June 14, said chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson during a news briefing on Monday morning.
According to Patterson, the decision was made based on growing evidence that the vaccines not only reduce the likelihood of somebody getting the infection but also reduce the severity of the disease and slow the spread of the virus.
“All of those things made it clear that it’s time to do this,” Patterson said.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second dose of a government-approved COVID-19 vaccine.
Anyone seeking to avoid isolating before returning to Nunavut will need to provide the Health Department with proof of vaccination, such as a letter from a doctor or a copy of a vaccination card, Patterson said. They will then be given a letter of exemption that allows them to board a flight.
“We’re treating [the vaccine] as another reason to give somebody an exemption,” Patterson said. “Not just from isolation in the south, but from the need to isolate.”
Anyone caught providing inaccurate information will be fined, Patterson said.
Restrictions haven’t been eased for people who are only partially vaccinated because their level of protection against certain variants of the virus is too low, he said.
Anyone travelling with a non-vaccinated person — including parents with non-vaccinated children — will still be required to go through the two-week stay in a hub.
“As we’ve seen in Northwest Territories and other jurisdictions, children can bring the virus into the community and can spread it,” said Patterson.
“Right now [that] would increase the risk for people who haven’t been able to get vaccinated.”
Those who have medical reasons preventing them from getting vaccinated will continue to have to go through the isolation hubs.
Nunavut’s isolation hubs have been in place since March 2020 as a way to prevent travellers from potentially bringing the respiratory virus into the territory from the south. Nunavummiut returning home from the south and non-essential workers coming into the territory have been required to spend two weeks isolating at a hotel in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife beforehand.
Monday’s announcement also means that fully vaccinated travellers leaving Iqaluit will no longer need to isolate at their final in-territory destination as of June 14.
The Nunavut government also announced Monday that, as of June 14, masks will be mandatory in every community across the territory anywhere and anytime physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Monday’s announcement comes as two recoveries and no new cases were reported in the territory.
There is currently one active case in Nunavut, in Iqaluit.
Now that Kinngait has no active cases of COVID-19 and nobody in isolation, public health restrictions will be eased beginning on June 10:
- Indoor home gatherings can have 15 people in addition to household members, and outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people will be allowed.
- Long-term care facilities, continuing care centres, boarding homes and health centres may allow a maximum of two visitors from their immediate family, per resident, with mandatory masks.
- Daycares may open and schools may open at Stage 2. That means middle and high school instruction will be a blend of in-school and remote learning. Students will attend school two to three days per week with staggered schedules to reduce physical interaction.
- Government offices and private businesses may also open with masks and physical distancing.
- Indoor gatherings for support groups and group counselling can re-open for up to 20 people and indoor public gatherings including places of worship and arenas can take place for up to 50 people or 50 per cent of the facility's capacity, whichever is less.
- Food service and licensed establishments may open for regular business at 50 per cent capacity.
In Iqaluit, beginning on Friday, June 11, personal services such as hairdressers and beauty salons may also open.
The Government of Nunavut’s next COVID-19 news briefing will be on Thursday.