Nunavut steps up preventative measures to keep residents healthy

The Nunavut government is taking precautionary measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the territory.

Nunavut government recommends restricting travel

In an effort to curb panic buying, the Northmart in Iqaluit is limiting purchases of soap, flu treatments and toilet paper to one per household. (Beth Brown/CBC)

The Nunavut government is taking precautionary measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 in the territory.

Nunavummiut are asked to avoid international travel and reduce non-essential travel within Canada. However as there are no confirmed cases in the territory, travel within Nunavut is not restricted. 

The government is following its own advice and has cancelled all non-essential duty travel for its employees and all international school trips. 

The City of Iqaluit has also cancelled all non-essential work travel. It says it has launched an internal task force to coordinate prevention and response efforts which will meet regularly.

Sick notes are no longer being given out by doctors, so the Department of Health is asking employers to waive the requirement for sick notes, as the government did last week. 

The Nunavut Court of Justice has also postponed all circuit court, which means all court scheduled in communities outside of Iqaluit. This includes the jury trial scheduled to start in Clyde River on Monday and the jury trial scheduled to start March 23 in Iqaluit. 

However, court will continue to go ahead in Iqaluit. 

Jury trials are cancelled across the territory until June. This includes an Iqaluit jury trial previously scheduled to start March 23. (Nick Murray/CBC)

In a press release, the territorial government says it has a pandemic plan and health centres have the necessary resources to respond to cases of COVID-19. 

It has enhanced the cleaning protocols in schools, government offices and airports. 

"I understand this is an uncertain, evolving situation. It is normal to be concerned, but we are prepared. 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," said Dr. Patterson,  Nunavut's chief public health officer.

The City of Iqaluit says it has also increased cleaning measures in city facilities and workplaces, focusing on disinfecting surfaces and touch points. 

"The city is actively monitoring and taking steps to help protect the health of the community, we are prepared to adapt and respond as the situation changes," Mayor Bell is quoted as saying in a city press release.

City facilities and workplaces remain open, the release says, but some recreation programs have been cancelled as a precautionary measure. Updated information can be found on the city's website.

Hamlets have also began issuing their own guidelines in line with the territorial government. Coral Harbour has asked residents to reconsider larger gatherings, especially if they include people travelling from outside the territory. 

Polar Knowledge Canada has cancelled all planned trips to the Canadian High Arctic Research Station and the hamlet of Cambridge Bay is asking residents who are sick to wear face masks to protect those around them. 

Some stores have begun limiting certain purchases to one per household to ensure continued access for everyone to necessary items. (Beth Brown/CBC)

Economic impacts of coronavirus 

In an effort to curb panic buying, the Northmart in Iqaluit is limiting purchases of soap, flu treatments, and toilet paper to one per household.

Cruise ships also won't be visiting any Nunavut communities this summer, because the federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced Friday that the summer cruise ship season has been cancelled. 

The North doesn't have adequate health resources to deal with the potential risk, Garneau said. The ban covers cruise ships of all sizes.

A government of Nunavut report on the 2018 season said the territory had 3,404 cruise ship passengers that year and they spent $388,000. 

Agnico Eagle, which runs the Meadowbank and Meliadine gold mines in the Kivalliq region, confirmed to Rankin Inlet's mayor Harry Towtongie that it had started implementing health screenings for its employees.