Arctic Canada: Nunavut extends public health emergency until June 11

Premier Joe Savikataaq speaks at an update on government response to COVID-19 at the Legislative Assembly. Nunavut’s public health emergency is extended until June 11. (Jackie McKay/CBC)
Nunavut’s public health emergency is extended until June 11 because of COVID-19.

After releasing a reopening plan for the territory on Monday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said in a news conference on Thursday that the Nunavut border won’t open any time soon.

“Right now travel into Nunavut from outside of the territory represents the highest risk,” Patterson said, adding that easing restrictions in the territory is only possible if the border remained closed.

Developments such as an available vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 would be reasons to open the border he said. Or, seeing community transmission contained in the south.

The governments phased approach to easing restrictions starts on June 1. On Monday, daycare centres will be allowed to open. And, territorial parks and municipal playgrounds will be open for outdoor use.  Outdoor gatherings of 25 people will be allowed.

Missed the news conference? Watch it here: 

Pick your kids up outside

For parents sending their children to daycare, Patterson recommends dropping off and picking up children curbside, instead of going inside.

“It’s the interaction between adults in different households that carries the risk for transmission,” Patterson said.

Daycare staff will not be taking in children who have any signs of illness.

There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut. As of Wednesday, May 27, 124 people were being investigated by public health for symptoms. All together, 1044 Nunavut residents have been investigated for COVID-19.

The Department of Health is also issuing a public health advisory for whooping cough in Sanikiluaq.

There is only one case of the illness in the island community. The department is issuing the warning because daycare centres are opening.

“For children in daycares [whooping cough] is far more dangerous than COVID[-19],” Patterson said, adding that the risk of the illness spreading in the community right now is low.

Wage boost for shelter workers, licensed daycares

Finance minister George Hickes announced a relief program for low wage earners in Nunavut who serve vulnerable Nunavummiut.

Starting June 1, health and social service businesses like food centres, shelters and licensed daycare centres can apply to pay their employees more.

The program will allow employers to pay up to $25 an hour to employees who earn less than $20 an hour. Employees who earn $20 or more but still less than $25 could see their hourly wage boosted to $25 an hour.

This wage subsidy will be in place for up to 16 weeks and can be back dated until May 1.

It will be up to an employer to apply for this subsidy. Applications will be posted to the Finance Department website on Monday.

Summer construction set for 19 communities

The Minister of Community and Government Services Lorne Kusugak says 19 hamlets have agreed to allow workers into their communities.

Kusugak says the 50 capital projects scheduled to be worked on this summer are valued at $600 million.

Southern workers coming in will isolate and be monitored up until the time they board flights, like residents and medical travellers are monitored now. Most of those workers will isolate in separate quarantine hotels in Ottawa and Quebec City, away from residents and medical travellers.

“We need to balance the long term infrastructure needs of the communities with the current COVID-19 restrictions,” Kusugak said.

The municipalities had full say in this move forward.

“That decision was theirs alone,” he said.

The Nunavut government will pay for hotel rooms and meals so workers can isolate.

Private companies doing work in Nunavut will pay their own workers’ wages during those two-weeks. Kusugak said his department is still negotiating with companies contracted for government projects about how workers wages will be paid during isolation.

Around 125 workers are already in quarantine now. Kusugak says he expects another 100 workers will be booked into the hotels by Sunday.

Related stories around the North:

Arctic: Roundup of COVID-19 responses around the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Canada: Inuit gov. in Atlantic Canada gives gas allowances to harvesters under COVID-19 program, CBC News

Greenland/Denmark: COVID-19 could delay Kingdom of Denmark’s Arctic strategy, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Sweden seen as major source of COVID-19 in Western Finland region, Yle News

Greenland: COVID-19: Arctic science expedition postpones flight campaign after trainee tests positive for virus, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland talks COVID-19 with Canada, Greenland foreign ministers, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Growing concern among Nordic officials over increased Arctic border traffic, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Closed military naval town in Russian Arctic sees major increase in COVID-19 cases, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Covid-19 deaths top 4,000 but overall situation in Sweden ‘getting better’, Radio Sweden

United States: COVID-19 pandemic raises hard questions about health disparities, says Int’l Inuit org, Eye on the Arctic

Beth Brown, CBC News

Beth Brown, CBC News

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