COVID-19 grounds QIA’s compassionate and bereavement travel programs

“We will ensure that all existing travellers get home safely,” says QIA spokesperson

QIA has suspended its compassionate and bereavement travel programs amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks in Iqaluit and Kinngait. (File photo)

By Mélanie Ritchot

With COVID-19 outbreaks in Iqaluit and Kinngait, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s compassionate and bereavement travel programs are on hold to help prevent the spread of the virus in the Qikiqtani region.

The bereavement travel program provides financial support to fly to attend a funeral or have a deceased family member’s remains shipped. The compassionate travel program helps cover travel costs to visit a terminally ill family member.

The decision was made based on public health orders to limit non-essential travel between Nunavut communities, the organization announced on Tuesday.

Currently, one traveller is in the process of returning home, Will Hopkins, a QIA spokesperson confirmed.

“We will ensure that all existing travellers get home safely,” he said in an email statement.

Over the past year, the program has supported about 10 travellers per month on average. Before the pandemic, about 20 people access funds through the program monthly, Hopkins said.

The program is suspended indefinitely, but QIA will reassess as the situation changes, the release stated.

The same suspension was made last year when the pandemic first started, but it was lifted about two months later when public health restrictions eased in May, 2020.

QIA has not provided support for travel to and from the southern provinces through the programs for about a year, since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Nunavut, Hopkins said.

The organization budgeted $776,359 for the two programs in 2020-21, according to its most recent annual report.

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