Nunavut households can have 10 guests, 50 may gather outdoors

A public health order limiting the number of people who can gather indoors is changed, increasing that limit from five to 10 people, Nunavut health officials announced Monday. 

Churches, community halls allowed at 50 people or half venue's capacity for services, meetings

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer, speaks at a news conference on COVID-19 each Monday. Restrictions for indoor and outdoor gatherings have been changed so 50 people may gather outdoors and 10 guests may visit a private residence. (CBC)

A public health order limiting the number of people who can gather indoors has changed, increasing that limit from five to 10 people, Nunavut health officials announced Monday. 

For private dwellings, a health order on distancing and gatherings now says that 10 people may visit indoors, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said in a news conference at the Legislative Assembly on Monday. This is in addition to the number of the people who live in that home. 

A limit on outdoor gatherings has increased from 25 to 50 people. The cap on indoor gatherings at places of worship, community halls or conference centres has been increased to 50 people or to half the capacity of the venue. Patterson said these gatherings would be for governments, municipalities or Inuit organizations. 

For these gatherings, "It's still expected that social distancing is maintained," Patterson said. 

"Consider wearing a mask when distancing is difficult," he said. 

'There is reason to be optimistic' says top doctor

Monday marked the third announcement for changes to public health measures under the territory's reopening plan, Nunavut's Path. These changes are being announced every two weeks.

While in the South, provinces are talking about preparations for future outbreaks, Patterson said that a current decrease in cases in some provinces connected to Nunavut is good news. 

"There's no doubt that the curve is flattening. There is reason to be optimistic," he said. 

There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut. As of Monday, 140 people were being investigated by public health for symptoms. In total, 1,418 people have been investigated. 

Health officials are looking at four criteria before they make changes to Nunavut's travel restrictions, which still require residents to isolate for two weeks in designated hotels before returning home. 

The first is a need for faster test results, Patterson said. Diagnostic wait times continue to be slower in Nunavut than in the South, where the turn-around for test results is between two and four days. 

"In Nunavut the average right now is between six and seven days," Patterson said, adding this wait time is longer for remote communities if there are any flight complications with the airlines. 

There also needs to be no community transmission in those places travelled to most by Nunavummiut, like Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton, he said. 

The last two criteria, effective treatment and a vaccine, are out of Nunavut's control, he said. 

"There's potential for multiple waves of COVID-19 until there is effective treatment or a vaccination," he said. 

Essential workers wage premium extended

A Nunavut essential workers wage premium is being expanded. 

The program was launched earlier in June so low earners in health services, social services and licensed daycare jobs could receive a wage top up.

Now, people who work in jobs like transportation, food services, retail and accommodation are eligible for the subsidy. 

Employers have to apply for the wage subsidy, which is for people who make less than $25 an hour. The subsidy could add an extra five dollars per hour to their wage. The funding lasts 16 weeks and can be paid retroactively to May 1. 

The forms and list of eligible workers are posted on the Department of Finance website. 

Missed the news conference? Watch it here: 

A public health emergency was extended until July 9. Government press conferences are being reduced to once each week, on Mondays at 11 a.m. ET. 

You can watch the news conference on the CBC Nunavut Facebook page. The press conference also played on local cable, on channel 233, and will air at 4 p.m. ET on the CBC radio show Tusaajaksat.