The Government of Nunavut is now asking Nunavummiut to avoid international travel and reduce non-essential travel within Canada, according to a Friday news release.
“The additional preventive steps we are taking today and our whole-of-government approach are aligned with nation-wide initiatives and will ensure the GN is ready should the situation change,” stated Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer.
Non-essential duty travel for GN employees has been cancelled, effective immediately, along with international school sponsored trips. The government is also asking residents to avoid mass gatherings and visiting community airports.
The Department of Health will no longer be issuing sick notes and recommends organizations waive their requirements for sick notes.
Despite there being no cases of the virus in Nunavut, it is having an impact.
“I understand the fear and the confusion,” Patterson said in previous interview. “It’s a new virus and so it’s getting a lot of attention.”
“At the moment, the odds of any one person in Nunavut getting sick with COVID-19 remains small,” said Patterson, adding most Nunavummiut will not be exposed to it.
Nunavut’s Department of Health has been monitoring the situation and preparing steadily since the first case of COVID-19 was identified globally, assured Patterson.
Health staff has been receiving training to refresh their knowledge of how to properly use personal protection equipment like gowns and masks. The department is also looking into measures that can be taken to eliminate and/or slow down transmission within and between communities.
“We’ve been reviewing the surveillance measures needed to monitor for the presence of COVID-19 in our communities and we’ve been working with Public Health Agency of Canada to ensure that we’re following the best practices from their expert recommendation,” said the chief public health officer.
Procedures may also vary from community to community depending on the state of infection.
Each case is different, said Patterson, explaining there are many factors that need to be considered not just the community. The degree and length of exposure, the visibility of symptoms and extend of illness are a few he listed.
Depending on each case, the individual may need to stay home, be admitted to a hospital or transferred to the south for the intensive care unit (ICU).
Only four to fiver per cent of people with COVID-19 need to admitted to the ICU, said Patterson.
“If we start to see evidence of significant transmission in a community, then we would look at what ways we could use to increase social distancing or reduce contact between individuals that’s not necessary.”
This could mean rescheduling sporting events, delaying community feasts and/or closing schools temporarily. The idea would be limit public events and gatherings, explained Patterson.
According to him, despite the confusion and fear around COVID-19, there is still plenty of action individuals can take to reduce their risk and protect themselves and their loved ones.
It is important to frequently wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer. He also urges individuals who feel unwell, whether from a cough, cold or fever, to stay home.
“The best course of action is to stay aware and use preventive measures: if you are sick, stay home; observe travel restrictions and listen to the advice of health professionals,” stated Patterson.
Responses to COVID-19 concerns
Amy Elgersma, the chief administrator officer of the City of Iqaluit wrote, “The Department of Health has been in regular contact with the city to review plans and protocols.”
Meanwhile, Iqaluit’s Frobisher Inn is continuing to host business and leisure travellers at its hotel. Ed Romanowski, president and chief operating officer of Nunastar Properties Inc., assured several preventive measures are being implemented to keep the hotel safe and clean. To protect against virus transmission, frequently touched areas are being cleaned often. There is availability of hand sanitizer throughout the hotel.
Northmart is closely monitoring the COVID-19 developments according to Derek Reimer, director of business development at the North West Company. The company is providing reminders to its stores to comply with hygiene and sanitation processes and standards, said Reimer.
“We will follow the direction of the local health authorities in each community as to their guidance and requirements and take the appropriate action,” Reimer said, adding the health of the customers and employees is the company’s number one priority.
Parks Canada stated the department will continue to follow the guidance and recommendations of the Public Health Agency of Canada in order to mitigate risks to visitors and team members.