Premier to sit out Christmas games because of Omicron

GN COVID-19 update warns of health-care service cuts, but gives green light to muted holiday celebrations

Premier P.J. Akeeagok says he will not participate in Christmas games this year in a bid to keep his family and community safe in the face of an “alarming” increase in COVID-19 Omicron variant cases across Canada. The premier gave an update on the pandemic Tuesday, which included a warning of short-term health-care services reductions. (Photo by Corey Larocque)

By Corey Larocque

Premier P.J. Akeeagok will sit out this year’s Christmas games, something that’s normally part of his own holiday tradition, to keep his bubble small in light of the “alarming” increase in Omicron-related COVID-19 cases across Canada.

“Many of us were looking forward to a more normal Christmas like the one we had prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Akeeagok said Tuesday during an update on the pandemic’s effect on Nunavut.

“I’m going to do my part to keep my family and my community safe.”

It was the first COVID-19 update since Akeeagok became premier and John Main became health minister in November. They reported two new cases in Pangnirtung on Monday, without confirming which strain of the virus had been detected. Those are the only cases across the territory, after the recovery of two people in Iqaluit who had tested positive earlier in December.

Akeeagok and Main called on Nunavummiut to continue following public health measures, including wearing masks, avoiding unnecessary travel, getting vaccinated, keeping social gatherings small, and avoiding contact with people who are at a high-risk of contracting the disease, including elders.

While there are no travel restrictions in place, it’s possible the Health Department might have to suspend travel in and out of communities if a case is detected, said the territory’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson.

Community events, such as Christmas games, that are popular around the holidays, can proceed, but indoor gatherings are limited to 50 per cent of the venue’s capacity or a maximum of 100 people.

“It’s Christmas. People should be able to have fun and celebrate,” Main said. “I believe it’s possible to stay safe and celebrate the season.”

Some communities will experience reduced health services — including access to flu and COVID-19 vaccinations, Main said.

He blamed what he said will be short-term health-care reductions on “a national trend in health staffing,” noting that the pandemic has “affected health care in negative ways.”

Communities will notice the service reductions differently in terms of what services will be affected and for how long, Main said, but he added service reductions should be short-term and only during the holiday season.

He cited emergency-only care at some health centres and limited quantities of vaccines as two things people across Nunavut might expect to see.

Patterson said “quickly changing information” about the Omicron variant forced the Health Department to rescind an order it recently made that allowed some communities to have larger gatherings.

“It’s very difficult to distinguish Omicron from the common cold,” Patterson said.

People who have travelled out of the territory will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days when they return. The quarantine requirement won’t apply to anyone who has received a third dose, or booster shot, of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Both Akeeagok and Main have received a third dose, the health minister said.

People who have received a booster shot are 75 per cent less likely to have a severe infection of COVID-19 or to require hospitalization, Patterson said.

As more and more Canadians make appointments to receive a third vaccination, it’s not clear yet whether Nunavut’s definition of what it means to be fully vaccinated will change. Until recently, anyone who had received two doses had been considered fully vaccinated.

“That’s an open question,” Patterson said. “The evidence is still being assessed.”

When asked whether a 14-day isolation period for teachers, who have travelled south for the holidays, might have on the start of school in January, Akeeagok said “everything’s on the table.”

He acknowledged that many Government of Nunavut employees, including teachers, will be affected by that requirement and that he is working with Ministry of Education staff to determine what the resumption of school will look like.

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(21) Comments:

  1. Posted by MARS on

    POLL

    Thumbs up for Christmas Games
    Thumbs down for NO Christmas Games

    PS – no wrong answers

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  2. Posted by Nitty on

    “When asked whether a 14-day isolation period for teachers, who have travelled south for the holidays, might have on the start of school in January, Akeeagok said “everything’s on the table.”

    What the heck does that mean? He might as well have just burped, or shrugged or said nothing.

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    • Posted by The Old Trapper on

      It’s Doug Ford speak for;
      Doing nothing
      Delay taking necessary measures until it is way too late
      Not listening to your experts
      Say that you are not going to take a necessary action as it would be too hard on businesses
      Take the necessary action one or two days later when every PHU threatens to take action themselves.

      It also helps if you have a daughter who puts out daily anti-vax videos, and don’t forget the ex-cop son-in-law who quit the police force instead of getting vaccinated.

      Premier Akeeagok, don’t be a Doug Ford.

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    • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

      I don’t believe it is up to him, rather Dr Patterson.
      Today vaccinated persons do not have to isolate.
      Note – TODAY>
      Tomorrow may be different.

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  3. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    please clarify and spell it out that people with their current booster shot ( third dose and 2 weeks afterwards) do not need to self isolate at home when returning from the south. This is not clear in your message.

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    • Posted by R.J. on

      Doesnt matter anyways cause vaccinated spread it around anyways. Passports dont work cause all exposure notices in the south are for vaccinated only.

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      • Posted by really!? on

        Why would anyone down-vote this? Where I am vaccinated make up 80% of new covid cases. And they use passports here too. Todays stats put 60% hospitalizations are vaccinated. (in my undisclosed canadian location).

    • Posted by Matna on

      agree to spell it out plez Matna!

      anyone who returns to NU is required to isolate but can others in the home go out if they have the 2 (or the 3) shots?

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  4. Posted by Best protection on

    Please offer rapid tests to those returning to Nunavut instead of 2 week isolation request. Rapid testing is most effective way known to determine individual status for covid 19. Two week isolation is extremely challenging for numerous reasons (work pressures, family responsibilities, mental health, ect.). When will the GN begin to use the best tools we have available?

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    • Posted by Why u dum on

      That would be a great idea… I wonder if the government can afford it? If they can administer it? Finally, do the have the smarts and the people in place to make sure all advice is followed

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      • Posted by Jpt Arnakak on

        I mean…my love ones and the community I could potentially infect because I couldn’t take the time are more important to me. never thrown caution to the wind (trm*p does; why anyone else?)

  5. Posted by New Government on

    Let’s see how good the newbies can handle the situation. it’s easier to stay outside the court and bitch about the cabinet rather than running the show. OK Mr Premier and all of your puppets, lets do it well and protect Nunavummiut. Do not create a multi class setup, make everybody who doesn’t have the booster isolate. No if and whens, look at the south and look at available health services in Nunavut, It’s a no brainer.

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  6. Posted by GN: Government Non-Proactive on

    So… the plan is this, or as it was casually dropped yesterday: GN employees who left will be given 14 day mandatory isolation upon returning. This means those who did not travel because of the uncertainty during these times will have their mental health further impacted. As they will have to cover for their peers who will get another 2 week vacation. How will this work in schools that are already full of vacancies, zero substitutes, etc.? I know, no one cares or cared to have a forethought regarding it. We are several years into a pandemic and still being terribly reactive. I would say that teacher recruitment and retention will be at an all time high this year and next. Is there a Teachers’ Union that will fight for its members in NU, instead of attending Atlantic Canada conferences in PEI?

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    • Posted by Lockdown mode on

      There won’t be any classes until at least the 18th so, you probably don’t need to worry about doing everything by yourself after all.

  7. Posted by clarity required on

    The press conference and related releases were a bit of a nightmare. It’s not at all clear who needs to isolate. In the press release, the CPHO says that people who travel “are asked to isolated”. Is this a request or an obligation? Does this apply to everyone, or just those who are not fully vaccinated? And what does “fully vaccinated” mean, anyway? Does it mean two shots or three?

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    • Posted by Needler on

      also does it include all who reside in the home, if only some traveled and they are not all vaccinated, or only those not vaccinated who live together? also can they form a group with another family?

  8. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Seriously!!!!???? Two weeks isolation hasn’t been a viable public health strategy for at least a year now!! 5 days and a negative PCR test gets you into Canada at the moment. Or better yet distritbute rapid tests upon arrival and follow up with those that test positive. Time to do your jobs and join the 21st century GN dept. of Health!

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  9. Posted by Hiding under the Rankin Rock on

    Vaccinations for kids and third shots should be a priority right now as kids are out of school and many parents are also on break. This is the perfect time to do it, I know my friends down south have been doing this right now and for this reason.

    Meanwhile here in Rankin Inlet at least there will be no shots until the New Year.

    The virus isn’t taking a break Mr. Premier, why are we?

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  10. Posted by Northern Guy on

    PEI has a population twice that of Nunavut and all travellers entering are required to isolate for 4 days and given two rapid tests at their point of entry. The tests are taken on day 2 and day 4 and if both are negative they are free to go about their business. Why is this kind of basic public health planning beyond the reach of the numbskulls working for the department of health?

    • Posted by Joan on

      Because this is nunavut, and that strategy makes sense. Stoners making rules here.

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