Nunavut’s chief public health officer optimistic, lifts more COVID-19 restrictions

Territory also expands wage subsidy program

Indoor gatherings of up to 50, or half the capacity of a building—whichever number is lower—are now allowed at Nunavut’s places of worship, such as St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit. (Photo by Meagan Deuling)

By Meagan Deuling
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Starting today, immediate family members can visit elders in Nunavut’s long-term care facilities.

As well, residents are now able to gather in groups of up to 50 people while outside, and households are able to gather with groups of up to 10 additional people in private dwellings.

This was announced today by the Government of Nunavut as the latest steps to modify the public health measures in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19.

The plan to ease public health restrictions is laid out in what is called Nunavut’s Path. The first phase was enacted on June 1, and the restrictions have been eased further every two weeks since then.

“We need to remain diligent in our collective commitment to practise distancing and good hand hygiene,” said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer.

Starting today, day camps and youth centres are allowed to resume operations, and the limit for some official indoor gatherings is now 50 people, or half of the capacity of the building, whichever is less.

This includes places of worship, conference facilities, community halls, rental meeting spaces, and gatherings organized by the Government of Canada, the Government of Nunavut, municipal corporations or regional Inuit organizations.

“If you make the choice to participate in a large gathering or attend an indoor event, or even meet up with friends for dinner, please also choose to be responsible and choose to take actions that will keep yourself, your community and your territory safe,” Patterson said.

This means keeping six feet away from other people, washing your hands, not touching your face, frequently sanitizing areas that are often touched, like door knobs, and wearing a mask in situations when distancing isn’t possible.

And if you don’t feel well, stay home.

There are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory. In total, there have been 1,418 investigations into possible cases, and there are 140 outstanding investigations.

Nunavut is still not in a position to consider lifting the requirement for people to go into isolation for 14 days in hotels in one of four southern cities before returning to the territory.

There would need to be better capacity to test for COVID-19 in Nunavut before that would be considered, Patterson said. Right now it take six or seven days to get test results back, on average, whereas in the south it takes two to four days.

In addition, Patterson said he keeps an eye on transmission rates in southern areas that Nunavummiut typically travel through.

“Although worldwide the numbers don’t look very good, when you look at the curve of the number of infections in southern Canada, there’s no doubt that the curve is flattening, so there’s reason to be optimistic at this time,” Patterson said.

The last two things Patterson said he looks at when he’s considering the isolation requirement are “completely out of our control”: effective treatments against COVID-19 and a vaccine. Currently, neither is an option.

The GN also announced today that it’s expanding the Nunavut essential workers wage premium, which was announced at the end of May.

The premium was initially a wage top-up for workers who provide health and social services to vulnerable people, and who make less than $25 an hour.

The qualifications have been vastly expanded. Now taxi companies, restaurants, building maintenance and cleaning services, hotels, legal services, insurance companies and mortuary services, for example, may be eligible to apply for a wage top-up for their employees.

Nunavut’s minister of finance, George Hickes, said that the federal government is providing Nunavut with “approximately $4 million” for the program.

Employers have to apply for the program. Employees who make less than $20 an hour may be eligible for a five dollar per hour top-up, while those who make between $20 and $25 per hour may be eligible for a top-up so they make up to $25 per hour.

Hickes said that he expected more organizations in Nunavut to apply during the first phase. He had to negotiate with the federal government to change the parameters of the program for Nunavut, because the minimum wage here is higher than in other parts of the country.

Employees who are eligible can receive wage top-ups retroactive to May 1, for 16 weeks past that date.

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by Hot Bed on

    Churches have been among the most prominent places for the spreading of covid-19 around the world. It could be in part that believers who gather are confident they have some kind of supernatural protection, which hasn’t proven to be the case. It does make you wonder at what point people begin to question their cosmology.

  2. Posted by Breach of Mobility Rights on

    It has been over 100 days. How long can you justify being in a state of emergency?
    .
    How long can you justify insufficient testing capacity and bad health care in Nunavut to mandate residents to sit in a hotel room for 14 days? To stop any non resident of Nunavut from entering the territory doing the same? NWT let’s non residents in now!
    .
    The GN has had 100 days to improve testing capacity and Healthcare generally to accommodate this. What have you done? Nothing?
    .
    Why can’t I isolate in my home in Nunavut like they can in PEI, NB, NS and NL and NWT?
    .
    Opening the park, the pool and some restaurants isn’t enough. Make it possible to people to go on vacation to Southern Canada without being stuck in a damn 14 day prison. Stop wasting millions of dollars. Get a damn portable lab up here already and save some money. Can any reporter ask these obvious questions of our officials?
    .
    I have a constitutional right to go anywhere in Canada. You cannot justify this infringement any longer. I am fed up that the GN does not respect legal rights and doesn’t improve the state of healthcare while using it as a justification to infringe rights.

    • Posted by Me me me me me me me on

      Possibly because someone complaining so much might not be trusted to actually quarantine themselves?

      A mobile testing lab? Great idea! Which of the 20 odd communities do you want it to be put in, or is it just yours because you’re comfort is apparently your only concern?

      And improve medical facilities, great idea! And who is paying for the respiratory techs, doctors, nurses, isolation rooms, respirators, and other ICU equipment in every community? How did you expect them to have built all that in the last three months?

      • Posted by Laws apply to all on

        Instead of suggesting the poster is selfish, why don’t you answer one of the questions? They seem legitimate.
        .
        Why can’t Nunavummuit be trusted to quarantine at home? Is it because out paternal govt overlords think we are children? Can we not trust the 85% inuit population? The rest of Canada is trusted to do so, and enforcement laws exist if they don’t.
        .
        A lab would obviously be in Iqaluit, where the bulk of the population and health officials live. There is a vacant Arctic winter games center, military buildings etc. Seems easy enough. If I can get tested by pulling through a drive through in Quebec, why can’t we test people locally yet? When are we going to? The pandemic may never end, so will it be day 500 that Patterson formulates a plan?
        .
        A start to paying for better Healthcare is maybe not paying tens of millions of dollars to the Marriott Ottawa. I think we can hire 40 nurses for a year for what the GN pays for one of these hubs a month.

      • Posted by Repeat After Me on

        It is not a matter of physical infrastructure. We do not have the trained people to run things. Repeat this 100 times. To make it worse, we are not attracting and retaining trained people, it is that simple.

        As a territory we need to seriously re-think how we compete for skilled employees.

    • Posted by In the Dock on

      Yes, the court cases are going to be interesting, and it won’t be only the GN in the dock, other provinces will be joining it.

      That being said, many Nunavummiut don’t have the ability to isolate upon arrival in Nunavut. Actually, I think that most don’t have the ability.

      So, the option is isolate inside or outside of Nunavut. Does Nunavut have infrastructure to isolate returnees in-territory? No, we don’t, not at all. We have nowhere near enough hotel rooms, or the medical staff needed.

    • Posted by Andy on

      Who is stopping you from leaving? Just go and isolate in the dedicated hotel, but count the 14 days into your vacation plans. You arguments in your post are very well based on non educated guesses and not facts.

    • Posted by Alf Air on

      Charter Rights can be withheld subject to “such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” Take it to the SCC if you wish, but I don’t think you would win.

      • Posted by They Know Its Illegal on

        Where every other province and territory has since rescinded travel restrictions based on residency (Atlantic Canada) and requiring isolation in hubs (NWT), I bet tGNy already have the legal knowledge that this would not be saved under charter. we will know the legal answer from the other court challenges across the country soon so there is no need to do the same in Nunavut. citizen can still exercise speech in the media about policies they do not like rather than resorting to court actions. Good luck to the government “justifying” this, when there are less restrictive alternatives like self-isolation in home, local hotels (which are empty due to no business travel). There is no science to support 14-days sitting in a hub before being loaded on a plane filled with critical workers from highly infected provinces is at all safe or justified. I expect it will end soon because they know they are the last place in Canada with these restrictions.

  3. Posted by 4 months on

    So in the 4 months we have had to prepare what has been done? We still don’t have quick testing times… Have we got more that the 7 ventilators reported at the beginning of the pandemic?

    • Posted by Keith on

      Ventilators are not glorified CPAP machines, as some people seem to think. They require specialized training, facilities, and patient care if you expect to keep someone on them for extended periods of time.

  4. Posted by Thank you Dr. Patterson! on

    Thank you Dr. Patterson for tirelessly making sure all stops are in place to prevent COVID 19 from entering into our Territory. I know some people are tired of the restrictions because in this day and age, people are not patient anymore. With the instant gratification society, people are having hard time being patient. I have a special needs child in Ottawa. I have not seen her since December but, her health is too precious for me to demand that I visit her. I do not want to endanger health her because of my need to be with her this instant.
    I think some of us know the reality of life in the communities and it would be devastating for both the healthcare system and us if COVID 19 was spreading because of over crowded homes etc…
    If people want to complain, go see your MP or MLA.
    I’ve tried to look at the upside to all this and count my blessings and take advantage of the “down time” and enjoy life for it’s meant to be and stop planning. That feels so liberating!

    • Posted by The Native on

      Patients I think you mean Patience??? It’s been 100 days, a third of a year how much patience are people suppose to have. Consider families that can’t see loved ones, consider people that can’t see there parents and may never get to again because of these restrictions. Dr. Paterson has done an excellent job keeping covid out of Nunavut but now we want to out, we want to travel, we want to see our loved ones, we want freedom. I for one have zero patience mine has run out and by the way Nunavut also has ZERO Patients.

  5. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    ” How long can you justify being in a state of emergency?”
    .
    I would think that another 6 to 18 months should see us to the other side of this pandemic, and I would lean more to the 18 month side. That’s if a vaccine can be developed. It will get us back to a “new” normal.
    .
    If we are smart, and that includes our government officials, then we will still continue to wear masks, stay home if sick, wash our hands, and practice social distancing until we know much more about Covid-19. Right now we don’t even know if having Covid-19 provides immunity, and if so, for how long.
    .
    If there is a vaccine it will take months to distribute and inoculate people. We need over 70% of the population with immunity to achieve basic herd immunity, but 90 – 95% would be much better.
    .
    Get ready for the long haul. This is one of the times that it is better to be safe than sorry.

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