Public health restrictions to ease across Nunavut

Changes to take effect Jan. 17

Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, seen in a file photo, says COVID-19 isn’t going away. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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.

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(19) Comments:

  1. Posted by still here on

    It may feel good to have restrictions lifted, but I am worried that omicron will now explode in Nunavut, and more deaths will needlessly occur. I hope I am wrong.

    • Posted by Pandemic to Endemic on

      Omicron appears to be much less virulent than its predecessors. It’s strength is its transmissibility, or its ability to spread much more widely. This appears to be the evolutionary trade off it has made.

      Eventually we are going to have to live with covid, it isn’t going anywhere. The pandemic is now becoming an endemic.

      • Posted by John K on

        You’ve misused the word “endemic”.

        The correct way would be “COVID is becoming endemic” if you’re using it as an adjective and “COVID is an endemic virus” if you’re using it as a noun.

        Otherwise I agree entirely.

        • Posted by Pandemic to Endemic on

          Thanks for the correction!

      • Posted by The Old Trapper on

        The 7 day average of deaths in Canada due to Covid-19 was 87 yesterday, one month ago the 7 day average of deaths due to Covid-19 was 20.
        Is Omicron “milder” or is it that more people are now vaccinated, especially with a 3rd shot?
        Statistics will show that the majority of people in hospital, and in the ICU, and on ventilators are unvaccinated. The vast majority of people dying from Covid-19 are unvaccinated.
        This is not complicated people, get vaccinated.

  2. Posted by Northener on

    Community travel restrictions lifted, does that include ottawa? Wich was stupid to begin with, you were able to fly from a covid free community to covid ottawa but once covid is running rampid in both places that’s when you decide to restrict travel, who are you protecting once both places have it

  3. Posted by Stay Alert on

    I don’t understand the urgency to all of a sudden lift restrictions.

    Last week, they were crying out that we’re at a “breaking point” in our healthcare system, and today they’re saying we’re safe to go back to work and school — all this while COVID continues to spread and while doing fewer confirmatory tests and vaccine clinics across the territory.

    Who pushed for this decision — the CPHO or the Premier’s Office?

    • Posted by not amused on

      I feel the same way, why the urgency to lift the restrictions? What does it to take for Dr. Patterson to understand that COVID-19 will not go away, in time there will be more cases once the restriction is lifted. My 2 cents.

      • Posted by Pandemonic Prophet on

        I suspect he has thought a few steps ahead. You say Covid-19 won’t go away, there will be more cases? Yes, exactly. We can’t stay locked down until there are no more cases, because that would mean staying locked down forever.
        Locking down has serious costs that aren’t discussed nearly enough. We hear about schools and the impact on parents mostly, but we don’t talk much about the impact 2+ years of disrupted schooling is going to have on longer-term educational outcomes (oh, and surprise! that impact is going to be greater for less fortunate children).
        I also wonder if the GN is seeing a mass exodus of employees and maybe that is what’s behind this move. From where I sit I definitely see a lot more departures than new hires.
        Rest assured that if the health care system is truly collapsing they will lock down again. But you can’t tell that from case numbers.

  4. Posted by Okay on

    I think the government is going about this the right way. Let’s get people back to work and school. The GN and city/hamlets cannot support people staying at home while being paid for not doing anyways. Now there are those who who are doing the opposite and coming into work after hours to avoid people on Saturdays and Sundays to update websites and making sure that the information gets out there. To those,
    Especially the person in charge of the GN websites who updates faster than the news…. Thank you!! Wholeheartedly thank you

  5. Posted by Confused on

    I simply do not understand how we should expect our students to attend school full time and with no real restrictions but expect them not to “hang out” or visit after school hours.
    Once the school is open, that invites all the kids and teens to disregard all other so called restrictions.
    It also does not make any sense to expect a school to go from extremely restricted to opening at 100% capacity over night. On Jan 23, no one is allowed to enter the school unless they are teachers at the school and are there to prepare for the students arrival on Jan 24 and on a reserved time bases only. Then those same people wake on Jan 24 and then are expected to deliver a “covid free” experience with everyone suddenly there in person. I can not swallow that pill. It makes absolutely no sense.
    What happened to the phased approach of going back to normal that was mentioned by the same people a few days ago who made the ridiculous announcements today.

  6. Posted by The Kardashian on

    Listen Folks The Show is over and time to get back to reality.
    Stop the needless testing. Only test our elders and people whom have underlying conditions and treat them at the hospital.
    As for anybody else turn them away from the hospital and tell them to go home and recover at home, especially those whom have chosen not to vaccinate.
    Not long ago our CHO “Tam” said you cant catch covid on an airplane, now our Nunavut Airlines are posting seats every week for people whom have flown here with Covid and may have infected people.
    Not long ago they said that our Children are the ” Super Spreaders” so we went out and had them all vaccinated as well as ourselves.
    So my question to so many people, especially on this site whom has listen and believed all this from our Government and followed their direction on this from the start. Why cant you believe the the “Omicron Variant” aka “Covid” is now like the flu, why are you so reluctant to accept this from our government.
    Stop the needless testing, Stop putting all the extra burden on our hospital staff
    Tell the Germaphobe’s to stay home, and lets start to live with Covid like we have with so many other viruses and open everything back up.
    P.S. Yes I have been vaccinated and boosted.

  7. Posted by Plo on

    “there remains uncertainty about the accuracy of case counts because testing is being rationed”.

    There is no uncertainty. The case counts are wildly inaccurate and are a million percent for sure much, much higher than the numbers being reported. Why are they bothering to report any numbers at all? Also, part of the reason they stopped testing when they did is because more than half of the lab techs quit at the end of December. They tried to voice their to the minister and DM and they were met with silence. But sure. Let’s say we aren’t testing for other reasons and leave that part out.

  8. Posted by I live in the Arctic on

    One presumptive/confirmed case in Gjoa Haven as of yesterday.

  9. Posted by Umingmak on

    More lives have been lost in Nunavut due to the increase in suicides caused by the restrictions than have been lost for this virus (which has a >99% survival rate anyways). This is the right move, but doesn’t go far enough. Get rid of all restrictions. No more gathering limits, no more masks, etc. Just get back to 100% normal.

    • Posted by Stan on

      It is terrible about any suicides. The numbers were super high before lockdown. Did the numbers go up during lockdown? I haven’t seen anything to indicate that. No need to sensationalize and exploit those who have suffered to prove an untested point.

  10. Posted by Kid on

    Kudos to our Premier who recognizes the need for daycares. Thank you for speaking up.
    We shall see if one daycare stalls or has additional reasons to close while the rest reopen as per discussions and posts.

  11. Posted by Jimmy on

    How do you open a school at 50-percent capacity? Do you tell half the students to stay home?

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      Yes, 50% of the school attends MWF and the other 50% attends TTH and the next week they switch. They’re called cohorts here in Iqaluit.

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