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CPHO reviewing isolation hub exemptions with increased vaccine uptake

Following Pfizer vaccination clinics there will be decreased risk
“We’ve agreed before the hubs and other public health measures are invasive. There’s always benefits and there’s harms associated with those,” said Dr. Michael Patterson during the COVID-19 press conference June 4. Trevor Wright/NNSL photo

There is one new active case of COVID-19 in Iqaluit today, this individual is already in isolation and was identified as a household contact linked to a previously existing case.

Currently there are 15,268 people over the age of 18 who are fully vaccinated in Nunavut with an additional 2,139 having received their first dose.

As of June 2 just over 80 people were in isolation in Iqaluit.

The trend is still going downward says public health officials, but this latest case is no reason to veer off-course.

“When you look at the trend over the last couple of weeks, three weeks ago we were close to 80 cases and we’ve had that exponential fall down to 10,” said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer.

With five days of no new active COVID cases and “the only new case being someone who was already identified as high-risk, that’s very reassuring,” said Patterson. “We’re on the right track and today’s case is not a reason to consider changing the public health measures.”

Public health measures in Kinngait could be eased as early as next week depending on how things pan out.

Compared to mid-April, Patterson also says people are much more aware of public health measures and are better following them in comparison to the start of the outbreak.

“I think it’s a combination of people being more aware of (public health measures), following them, having more supports in place, it’s a number of things that have made the difference, but also the vaccine.”

Another one of Patterson’s concerns is as Iqaluit reaches the tail-end of an outbreak is that “people start to get reluctant to get tested because they don’t want to be the person that triggers another outbreak or triggers another lockdown,” said Patterson. However that can be harmful, he adds, as COVID-19 can spread further and faster, and increasing the risk of having to revert to a lockdown, along with the hidden transmission that’ll take place to individuals not wanting to be tested.

“The vaccines not only protect the individuals who get it, but they do reduce the rate of which spread happens, we’ve seen evidence of that in Israel and other countries that have a high proportion of vaccinated individuals.”

With everyone in Nunavut over 12 soon able to be vaccinated following the Pfizer vaccination clinics starting mid-June, there are many possible changes upcoming in public health measures, including those relating to the southern isolation hubs.

A letter from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, dated June 2, states that “Although the mandatory hotel isolation may have been justified at a certain point in time, our collective understanding of the virus has evolved significantly,” and urges the GN to revise their policies.

“We’ve agreed before the hubs and other public health measures are invasive. There’s always benefits and there’s harms associated with those,” says Patterson.

Patterson says they will be taking into consideration the vaccine rollout and the impact it will have on the danger the virus poses to Nunavummiut compared to risks and benefits associated with isolation.

“So many people have been vaccinated, that all of those things considered together allow us to ease measures, including potentially increasing exemptions to the hubs or moving away from reliance on hubs or isolation outside of (the) territory,” said the top doc.

“Once a majority of a population is vaccinated, maybe you need some public health measures to limit spread, but we don’t need all of those. We’ll be setting those thresholds so once the Pfizer vaccine clinics are complete, in most communities we don’t have to go into that stringent lockdown that Iqaluit is in or Arviat has been in so long.”

On Monday the GN announced their Pfizer vaccine clinics in Nunavut starting mid-June, the full schedule can be viewed here.