The Government of Nunavut will begin easing public health measures within the territory starting next week.
Beginning June 1, daycares will be permitted to open for business. Territorial parks and municipal playgrounds will be also reopened, said chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson during a May 25 press conference.
Territorial parks and municipal playgrounds can be opened “if local circumstances permit,” said Patterson.
Public park buildings will remain closed, he said.
The size limit of outdoor gathering will be increased to 25 people. This means people from 25 different households can get together outside. There is still a strong recommendation for maintaining physical distancing, explained Patterson, adding the increased size would allow “people to have the flexibility to have a bit more (of a) social life.”
These specific conditions have been selected due to their “low risk,” said Patterson.
Each hamlet may choose whether to ease these restrictions within their community.
Some parents may “feel that it’s not appropriate to send their children back to daycare right now. And that’s okay,” he said.
“We have to all make our own individual risk assessments in addition to these public health measures.”
On March 20, the GN declared a public health emergency and introduced measures to reduce the potential spread of Covid-19 in Nunavut. During Monday’s press conference, the GN introduced a document called Nunavut’s Path, which is the plan for easing those restrictions.
The government’s full plan, outlined in an 11-page document, can be read here.
“It is time for us to move forward. This does not mean that this pandemic is over. This does not mean that the threat has passed,” said Patterson, adding Nunavummiut need to maintain protective measures like hand washing and staying home if ill.
The measures listed in Nunavut’s Path fall under three risk categories: low, medium and high. The risk level of the activities may change over time based on new information about Covid-19.
Low risk measures include opening of daycares, parks, playgrounds, work places, retail outlets and outdoor day camps. Gyms allowing solo workouts and swims, in-territory travel between communities, visiting museums and galleries, in-person health care services and increased size limit for people meeting outdoors; all fall within this category.
Medium risk measures involve: dining in restaurants at half capacity or with space separations, visiting to long-term care facilities including visitation of Elders and holding faith and critical culture ceremonies. This category also includes the opening of hairdressers, nail salons, public sauna and hot tubs, youth centres, theatre, courts, schools and Nunavut Arctic College campuses.
The following are considered high risk measures: allowing indoor community feasts, indoor concerts, opening bars and pubs and lifting household visitor restrictions.
The chief public health officer will reassess the territory’s Covid-19 situation every two weeks after June 1. Patterson will ease measures, hold the measures for an additional two weeks or tighten measures. As the Covid-19 situation changes in Nunavut and new information about the virus becomes available, new measures may also be implemented to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is evolving rapidly, and every single week yields new information that shapes our strategy and our public health measures. Predictions and decisions made on the basis of today’s understanding of the virus may be obsolete in a short time. For this reason, we have opted for an approach that is flexible, cautious, and adaptive to the evolving situation around us,” explained Patterson.
He added, in order to minimize the risk of introducing Covid-19 into Nunavut, “it is imperative that our border measures remain.” Since March 25, only residents and critical workers have been permitted to enter the territory.
According to Nunavut’s Path, these travel restrictions are expected to continue in some form until there is more information about a vaccine and/or effective therapies for Covid-19.
“The border restrictions, the isolation hubs, will be one of the last if not the last restriction to go,” said Patterson, noting “the easiest threshold for that is reliable treatment or vaccination.”