Effective immediately, confirmatory testing for Covid-19 will now only be done to validate that Covid-19 is present in communities reporting a first case and in higher-risk settings, such as Elders homes, and other congregated facilities, such as critical service areas, Nunavut’s Health Minister announced Thursday morning.

“As Covid-19 cases rise across Nunavut, we must make necessary changes to protect the continuity of health services across the territory,” said John Main.

With the return of holiday travellers from the south, Main fully expects Covid-19 will be in “all our communities” over the next month.

“With that in mind, and recognizing there is a staffing shortage, we must manage our resources to balance Covid-19 response with Nunavummiut’s access to other essential health-care services,” said the minister.

Once Covid-19 is in a home — determined by the appearance of symptoms — all members of the household with symptoms will be assumed to be Covid-19 positive and testing will not be required, although rapid tests may be an option. In these cases, a household will be cleared of active Covid-19 and eligible to come out of isolation once everyone in the home has been asymptomatic for two to three days.

This will mean official Covid-19 case counts in Nunavut will no longer reflect the total number of those with active Covid-19 infections, said Nunavut’s chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson.

“This necessary change will reduce the risk that our health system will be overwhelmed, which will put Nunavummiut with other health conditions at risk. We have seen how fast Omicron spreads and it is essential that all Nunavummiut follow public health measures and isolate when told to. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect our communities,” said Patterson.

In addition, those with Covid-19 symptoms are asked not to call or go to the health centre unless symptoms are severe, or it is an emergency. This will reduce the risk of health staff getting Covid-19.

Anyone who develops Covid-19 symptoms — runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever, or difficulty breathing — should call the Covid hotline at 1-888-975-8601. Vaccines are still available for Nunavummiut ages five and older.

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