Nunavut cuts down COVID-19 isolation times as some lockdown measures lift

Some lockdown measures in much of Nunavut lifted Monday, allowing non-essential businesses to reopen and Nunavummiut to hold small indoor gatherings again. Some public health restrictions remain in place.

All non-essential businesses can reopen; students learning from home this week

Nunavut Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson gives an update on public health measures on Jan. 13. (Steve Silva/CBC)

In a news release Monday morning, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Patterson announced the territory is reducing the length of time people have to isolate if they are exposed to COVID-19 or if they travel to Nunavut.

People who contract COVID-19 will need to isolate for seven days if they have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, or at least 10 days if they are unvaccinated.

High-risk contacts and household members will need to isolate for 10 days even if they are vaccinated.

Anyone who has to isolate due to travel should do so for 10 days.

The move comes in light of some evidence showing shorter isolation periods are "reasonable" for some people, Patterson stated in the news release.

Other jurisdictions in Canada, including Ontario and Quebec, recently dropped some of their isolation periods to five days.

Last Thursday, Patterson said during a news conference that Nunavut would not be reducing isolation times that far.

"At five days, at least 40 per cent of people are still infectious, and we have seen at least one introduction [of COVID-19] in Nunavut from somebody travelling from the South after five days of isolation," he said.

Lockdown lifts

Lockdown measures in many Nunavut communities lifted Monday, allowing non-essential businesses to reopen and Nunavummiut to hold small indoor gatherings again.

Among other changes, travel restrictions to communities have lifted and students are expected to return to school in-person on Jan. 24 after learning from home this week.

Masks are still required in all communities, and the territory is still discouraging non-essential travel.

The latest on COVID-19 in Nunavut

Patterson and Premier P.J. Akeeagok plan to hold a live COVID-19 briefing at 11 a.m. ET Tuesday.

The government is holding two such briefings each week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

On Monday afternoon, the Health Department announced it had finally caught up on reporting test results. The territory was working through a backlog of results last week that had led to unclear case counts.

There are now 151 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut.

On Saturday, the territory reported it had detected a presumed case in Naujaat. The case was still being confirmed via testing. But Monday, the territory reported there are now five confirmed cases in the hamlet.

The reported case count in the territory is as follows:

  • 32 in Arviat.
  • 25 in Baker Lake.
  • 4 in Cambridge Bay.
  • 1 in Chesterfield Inlet.
  • 12 in Coral Harbour.
  • 8 in Iqaluit.
  • 2 in Gjoa Haven.
  • 21 in Kinngait.
  • 2 in Kugaaruk.
  • 5 in Naujaat.
  • 2 in Pangnirtung.
  • 1 in Pond Inlet.
  • 17 in Rankin Inlet.
  • 2 in Sanirajak.
  • 11 in Sanikiluaq.
  • 3 in Taloyoak.
  • 3 in Whale Cove.

There are no longer any confirmed cases in Qikiqtarjuaq.

Lab-confirmed testing is still not being offered to communities where COVID-19 is known to be present. That's a change the government announced earlier this month. Rapid testing is still available.

At the time, Health Minister John Main said the shift toward rapid testing would help protect other essential health care services.

"We fully expect that COVID-19 will be in all our communities over the next month as  travellers return to Nunavut," he said on Jan. 6.

There are presumed cases still being confirmed through testing in Naujaat, Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk and Taloyoak.

Cases have been confirmed in Arviat, Baker Lake, Cambridge Bay, Chesterfield Inlet, Coral Harbour, Iqaluit, Kinngait, Pangnirtung, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq, Rankin Inlet, Sanirajak, Sanikiluaq and Whale Cove.

    Written by April Hudson