For Nunavut residents in the South, the journey home is far from ordinary
Residents will undergo health checks ahead of their departure date, and at the airport
This Easter weekend, 286 people who have been quarantined in the South are expected to return to Nunavut on scheduled and chartered flights.
The territory imposed a travel ban on March 24 against all but residents and critical workers to protect against COVID-19. Residents wishing to return north have been required to isolate for 14 days in either Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife.
For many, that isolation period is coming to an end.
In anticipation, said Dr. Michael Patterson, the territory's chief public health officer, the government is executing a number of measures to keep residents and workers safe on their journey to Nunavut, as well as to protect those who didn't leave the territory.
New travel measures
The day before they fly out, travellers will be assessed by nurses to make sure they aren't showing symptoms of COVID-19, reads an April 9 update from Patterson. These assessments will be sent to the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer for clearance.
Residents will need a clearance letter and proof of residency in order to return to Nunavut.
On departure day, approved residents will be taken from their hotels to the airport via private, sanitized shuttles.
The Nunavut government has worked with airlines to minimize the risk to travellers, reads the update.
It says airports have ramped up cleaning and have taken steps to promote physical distancing during the check-in and security processes. Nunavut residents will go through another health check before boarding their flights.
'There will be no stopping at Timmy's'
Residents travelling on chartered flights will be taken directly to their airplane for boarding, says the update. Once in Nunavut, they will be chartered to their final destination.
Residents travelling on scheduled flights will be dropped off at the airport, where they'll be met by an airline employee to guide them through security and on to the plane, so that they don't come into contact with other travellers "and remain bound by their isolation agreement," reads the update.
"There will be no stopping at Timmy's," said Nunavut Health Minister George Hickes. "They're escorted all the way through the entire process and kept separate."
The government is reviewing the exposure history of critical workers before approving them for travel into the territory. On the plane, these workers will be seated separately.
They're escorted all the way through the entire process and kept separate.- George Hickes, Nunavut health minister
"Workers who have been exempted will be sitting in one area with a couple of rows between them and the people who have been through isolation," said Patterson. "That two-row separation is enough that they would not be considered in contact with COVID-19."
As of Friday, there were no cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut. A total of 376 people have been investigated for the disease. Of those, 229 are currently under investigation and 147 are no longer under investigation.
Written by Sidney Cohen with files from Beth Brown