Expert explains tighter travel restrictions despite no cases of COVID-19

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During the seventh COVID-19 press conference in Iqaluit, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson explains why travel restrictions have come into effect in Nunavut. Rajnesh Sharma/NNSL

Tighter travel restrictions in Nunavut have come into effect for several reasons including increased concerns of COVID-19 transmission in southern Canada.

“All over Canada now the problem is community infections,” said Premier Joe Savikataaq, adding “that’s the last thing we want here in Nunavut.”

“We know that there is a risk of people being exposed when they’re in the south,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson, during a press conference on Tuesday.

Besides minimizing the risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19, the travel ban aims to help Nunavut’s health centres.

“Our health centres are feeling overwhelmed with legitimate concerns of individuals in the community, who think they may have been exposed while in the south,” explained the doctor.

Also, “the rationale was we became increasingly aware that self-isolation was not being well followed by many people,” said Patterson.

There was a lot of confusion around self-isolation.

Some people felt they were unable to self-isolate.

Self-isolated individuals were traveling in planes with people who had not self-isolated. This defeated the purpose of self-isolation, explained Nunavut’s top doctor.

“We felt it was best to isolate in one location, where everyone could get through the isolation period, said Patterson. This would allow individuals to travel safely together since everyone would have cleared self-isolation after exposure.

Beginning on March 24 at 11:59 p.m., all residents of Nunavut must clear a mandatory 14-day isolation period down south before entering the territory. They will be able to self-isolate in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife.

Critical workers, who want to return to the territory, must apply for an exemption approved by Nunavut’s chief public health officer.

Patterson explained, critical workers are individuals who are involved with delivering “vital functions of society,” like: food, power and water.

Health care workers, who are considered critical workers, are being required to wear masks for 14 days while working. When not working, they are being asked to self-isolate. They will also have daily check-ins to confirm they remain free of any viral symptoms.

The list of critical workers is still being generated. At the moment, flight crew, medevac crew, power plant operators and people involved with fixing communication systems are on the list.

Individuals can put in an application to be considered as a critical worker. Contact CPHOTravelRequests@gov.nu.ca for more information.

1 COMMENT

  1. Those of us outside of Nunavut wanting to return home are seeking direction on how this is to work. We were unable to return to Cambridge Bay before this restriction because no flights were scheduled because of changes due to Covid19. We have emailed the Chief Medical office but many are saying they as well as us, are not getting answers…only form letter replies saying they will get back to us later.

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