Nunavut government says it can't lighten COVID-19 restrictions yet

While restrictions related to COVID-19 are being loosened in other Canadian jurisdictions, the territory's chief public health officer says nothing is changing in Nunavut right now.

Tests still too slow coming back to communities says territory's chief public health officer

Territorial parks remain closed, but camping on the land is OK Dr. Michael Patterson says. (Beth Brown/CBC )

While restrictions related to COVID-19 are being loosened in other Canadian jurisdictions, Nunavut's chief public health officer says nothing is changing in the territory right now.

In a news conference on Friday at the Legislative Assembly, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said that's because test results are still slowly coming in many communities. Until that changes, restrictions will stay as they are.

"There's still work going on to get reliable, sustainable diagnostic equipment available to all Nunavummiut," Dr. Patterson said. 

The government has said that daycares will be one of the first services to open. 

There are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut.

Premier Joe Savikataaq said there are 285 people currently being investigated for symptoms of COVID-19, and 553 people have been declared COVID-19 free following investigations by public health.  

In Iqaluit a GeneXpert machine used for tuberculosis testing is being used to test swabs for COVID-19. Patterson says Nunavut tests will continue to be sent to the South for secondary testing. 

A similar testing machine in Rankin Inlet could receive validation from Canadian health officials this week. 

Missed the news conference? Watch it here: 

Patterson also clarified that while all territorial parks like Sylvia Grinnell remain closed, camping on the land is OK. 

Health Minister George Hickes said that the summer construction season has yet to be cancelled, and communities have let the government know they are prepared to go ahead with it.

On Friday, the government announced it has spent nearly $4 million so far to isolate residents in hotels before they return to the territory.

Hickes, said that practice will stay in place for now, and is one of the primary reasons the territory continues to have no confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Right now, only essential medical services are being scheduled in the South, because people will then have to quarantine for two weeks before returning home. Also, some hospitals that provide care to Nunavummiut are overburdened. 

Hickes said his department is in talks with those hospitals to find out when some health services can start again.