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In-territory travel restrictions lifted, Nunavut public servants return to work June 8

Nunavut's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson announced a travel advisory against non-essential travel between communities is lifted, and public servants can return to work next week.

More services allowed to open on June 15

Nunavut's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson. As of June 8, public servants will be able to return to work. (Alex Brockman/CBC )

Nunavut's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson announced a series of new plans for easing up COVID-19 restrictions, during a news conference Monday.  

A travel advisory against non-essential travel between communities is lifted, and starting June 8, public servants who are working from home will return to work. 

It comes after the government adjusted it's reopening plan, Nunavut's Path, to say that reopening the workplace is a low risk measure. 

This opening extends to retail locations, as well as libraries, galleries and museums, which can open on June 8 for individual visits, but not for group events. These openings are allowed, but will only happen at the discretion of businesses themselves. 

Health centres will start offering in-person appointments. 

"Today marks the start of Nunavut's path forward," Patterson said.

Residents are in contact more, public health finds 

It also marks the first of a biweekly assessment health officials will make for the altering of public health measures on whether to allow restrictions to lighten. 

Starting June 15, dental offices are able to open, as well as massage therapy and chiropractic services. Pools and gyms are allowed to open for individual lane swims and exercise, if necessary precautions are put in place.

"While we are in a position to alter measures, we are not in a position to take social distancing for granted," Patterson said.  

Through contact tracing being done for people with symptoms of COVID-19, public health staff have seen that "contact bubbles," or groups of people spending time together outside of a household, are getting "noticeably larger," Patterson said.  

"It shows people are getting out more and having more contact," he said. 

Because of this change, if COVID-19 were to arrive, Patterson said it would spread faster now than it would have a few weeks ago. 

This is one reason that restaurants are not included in this round of openings. 

"Where we're still relying on delayed diagnostics, going a bit slower and a bit more carefully is a way of making up for that," Patterson said.   

There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut. As of Monday, there were 142 people being investigated by public health for symptoms. All together, 1,103 Nunavut residents have been investigated for COVID-19. 

Transition to work starts next week

Community and Government Services Minister Lorne Kusugak says there will be a transition period for public servants returning to work, as parents make arrangements for childcare. 

"June 8 is not a hard start date. We understand," he said. "Lets work through this so that people go back to work knowing that their children are in a safe place, and they they are in a safe work place." 

Kusugak said the government is not tracking lost productivity that may have followed COVID-19 closures and a ransomware attack on the governments network from the fall, but instead praised staff for their efforts to adapt.  

"It's very onerous on people to work from home, but they do incredible work. Our staff have been able to work through the barriers that have been put in place," Kusugak said.

Ten daycares opened today and six will open later this week, Education Minister David Joanasie said. Some daycares have closed for the summer.  

  • Missed the update from Nunavut's Chief Public Health Officer? Watch it here:

Territorial parks and municipal playgrounds are now open for outdoor use. The government extended its public health emergency until June 11. Up to 25 people can gather outdoors.

As for other updates, Joanasie told parents and students that report cards can be expected this month.  

And, a second staff member at a seniors care home in Ottawa that serves Nunavut residents has tested positive for COVID-19. All elders at Embassy West Senior Living are still testing negative and are being monitored by the department. 

Finance Minister George Hickes also reminded residents not to collect Canadian Emergency Response Benefit payments unless they are out of work because of COVID-19. Hickes said that payments will have to be repaid if a person is found to have not been eligible. Service Canada can take money back if an accidental payment was made. 

 The news conference  will air in full at 4 p.m. ET on the CBC radio show Tusaajaksat. 

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story stated that businesses and services will open starting June 15. In fact, they are able to open starting then, if necessary precautions are put in place.
    Jun 09, 2020 9:10 AM CT

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