Public health restrictions to ease across Nunavut
Changes to take effect Jan. 17
Public health restrictions will ease across Nunavut starting Monday.
Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson announced the changes at the government’s Thursday COVID-19 news conference.
The looser rules will mean that community travel restrictions are lifted, 25 people can gather outdoors, five people plus household members can gather indoors, government and Inuit organization offices can reopen, as can child care facilities, while long-term care homes can accept one visitor per resident.
Gyms, community halls, libraries, arenas and places of worship can all open to 25 people or 25 per cent capacity, whichever is less, and group counselling sessions can open to 10 people. Personal service businesses can reopen but restaurants are still restricted to takeout only.
Masks remain mandatory indoors.
Communities that see a dwindling case count or have no COVID-19 cases at all will continue to see restrictions ease, while those that have increasing cases may remain at this level, Patterson said.
Restrictions are easing at a time when there are active COVID-19 cases in 14 communities and there remains uncertainty about the accuracy of case counts because testing is being rationed.
But ultimately, a full lockdown isn’t justified, Patterson said.
“Living under the most stringent measures for a long period of time when people are fairly well-vaccinated just — it doesn’t make sense,” Patterson said. “It’s not something that we could defend continuing on much longer.”
Patterson said there have also been delays in processing cases because public health staff are learning how to use a new COVID-19 testing device – Abbott’s ID Now rapid testing machine, a toaster-sized device that produces test results in under 13 minutes.
He said it’s taken time to figure the new devices out, but by the weekend the Health Department should be able to report cases within 24 hours of receiving test results.
During the same news conference, Education Minister Pamela Gross provided an update on how school reopenings will work.
On Jan. 17, teachers can return to schools and prepare for students to return on Jan. 24.
Every community can have their schools open at full capacity, except for Cambridge Bay, Iqaluit, Kinngait, Arviat and Rankin Inlet, which will have to open their schools at 50 per cent capacity.
Patterson will re-evaluate each community’s schools being opened every seven days, Gross said.
The steps the government is taking now to reduce risk of spread — such as diagnosing COVID-19 by symptoms rather than testing, supplying masks, social distancing and supporting students and families in isolation — makes face-to-face learning possible, Patterson said.
“There’s no way to guarantee that there can’t be transmission at schools, but the risk of transmission at the school will be significantly less than the risk of transmission with intermingling of houses and getting together for video games and things like that,” he said.
Premier P.J. Akeeagok said on Twitter that, as of Thursday morning, there are 172 cases of COVID-19 in the territory: 38 in Iqaluit, 38 in Rankin Inlet, 20 in Arviat, 17 in Kinngait, 10 in Cambridge Bay, nine in Coral Harbour, eight in Baker Lake, eight in Pangnirtung, seven in Whale Cove, six in Sanirajak, five in Chesterfield Inlet, four in Qikiqtarjuaq, and one each in Pond Inlet and Sanikiluaq.