COVID-free for nearly a month, Nunavik sees travel ban within region lifted

The Kativik regional government is scaling back restrictions on travel between communities in Nunavik, Quebec's Inuit territory — but except for essential-service workers, it's not ready to welcome visitors from the south.

Mine sites remain restricted, flights from southern Quebec only for medical reasons or essential services

Residents of Salluit, Quebec's northern-most Inuit community, are among those allowed to travel to other Nunavik communities again after being in lockdown since April 3 due to COVID-19. (Jo-Ann Demers/Radio-Canada)

There have been no active COVID-19 cases in Nunavik for more than three weeks, so the Kativik regional government is scaling back restrictions on travel between communities in Quebec's Inuit territory — although it's not ready to welcome visitors from the south.

On Friday, Kativik released its plan to ease restrictions, as people are eager to visit their families, work, hunt, fish and engage in traditional activities in neighbouring communities.

"The lockdown has taken a toll on the mental health of many citizens," the regional government said in a news release.

"It is the season where people traditionally harvest fish and wildlife for subsistence. Families have been separated for extended periods."

Being COVID-free for nearly a month has opened the door to lifting restrictions on social gatherings, as well as travel between communities within Nunavik, which covers  the northern third of Quebec.

The region was locked down on April 3 by the region's emergency preparedness committee under the recommendation of the province's public health director.

Getting around will be severely limited for another week, as air travel between communities is not slated to restart until June 8.

Accessing Nunavik mine sites is still restricted, and flying depends on the schedules set by Air Inuit, the Kuujjuaq-based airline which offers charter and cargo services in Nunavik, Labrador and Nunavut.

The administrative centre of Nunavik, Kuujjuaq, is where Air Inuit's operations are based. The airline will be allowed to offer its services again as of June 8. (Frédéric Tremblay/Radio-Canada)

The travel ban on regular flights arriving from outside of Nunavik remains in effect. 

People from southern Quebec will only be allowed to travel to the region for essential, medical or humanitarian reasons, said Kativik in its news release.

Air travellers will be required to abide by certain conditions, it said. For example, only passengers will be allowed in the airport, and once inside the terminal, they will be required to wear a mask and maintain two metres' distance from others. 

Groups can gather, golfers can play

Groups of 25 people or less can gather outdoors, the release states.

However, indoor gatherings are limited to no more than five visitors, as long as there are no seniors or people with underlying health conditions in the home. If there are, everyone must wear a mask.

Golf tournaments will also be allowed, as long as no more than 25 people participate.

Further restrictions involving church activities, infrastructure priorities and workplace reopenings will be lifted in the coming weeks, as the reopening evolves.

"Though restrictions may be eased, they could be restored again at any time if the transmission of COVID-19 cases reappears in Nunavik," said Kativik in its statement.

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