Nunavut extends public health emergency until June 11

Nunavut's public health emergency is extended until June 11 because of COVID-19. A wage subsidy for low-wage essential workers starts June 1.

125 construction workers already in quarantine, government to pay tab

Premier Joe Savikataaq speaks at an update on government response to COVID-19 at the Legislative Assembly. Nunavut's public health emergency is extended until June 11. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

Nunavut's public health emergency is extended until June 11 because of COVID-19. 

After releasing a reopening plan for the territory on Monday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said in a news conference on Thursday that the Nunavut border won't reopen any time soon. 

"Right now travel into Nunavut from outside of the territory represents the highest risk," Patterson said, adding that easing restrictions in the territory is only possible if the border remains closed.

Developments such as a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 would be reasons to open the border he said. Or, seeing community transmission contained in the south. 

There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut. As of Wednesday, May 27, 124 people were being investigated by public health for symptoms. All together, 1044 Nunavut residents have been investigated for COVID-19. 

The governments phased approach to easing restrictions starts on June 1. On Monday, daycare centres will be allowed to open. And, territorial parks and municipal playgrounds will be open for outdoor use.  Outdoor gatherings of 25 people will be allowed. 

Missed the news conference? Watch it here: 

Pick your kids up outside

For parents sending their children to daycare, Patterson recommends dropping off and picking up children curbside, instead of going indoors. 

"It's the interaction between adults in different households that carries the risk for transmission," Patterson said.  

Daycare staff will not be taking in children who show any signs of illness. 

The Department of Health is also issuing a public health advisory for whooping cough in Sanikiluaq. 

There is only one case of the illness in the island community. The department is issuing the warning because daycare centres are opening. 

"For children in daycares [whooping cough] is far more dangerous than COVID[-19]," Patterson said, adding that the risk of the illness spreading in the community right now is low.  

Wage boost for shelter workers, licensed daycares

Finance minister George Hickes announced a relief program for low wage earners in Nunavut who serve vulnerable Nunavummiut. 

Starting June 1, health and social service businesses like food centres, shelters and licensed daycare centres can apply to pay their employees more.  

"The government of Nunavut will fund employers to pay their lower wage workers more for the hours they work," Hickes said.  

For employees who earn $20 or less per hour, the Nunavut Essential Workers Wage Premium will allow employers to pay their workers an extra five dollars per hour.  

Workers who make $20 or more, but less than $25 per hour, will receive enough to take their hourly pay up to $25 per hour. 

This wage subsidy will be in place for up to 16 weeks and can be backdated to May 1. 

It will be up to an employer to apply for this subsidy. Applications will be posted to the Finance Department website on Monday. 

Summer construction set for 19 communities

Minister of Community and Government Services Lorne Kusugak says 19 hamlets have agreed to allow workers into their communities. 

Kusugak says the 50 capital projects scheduled to be worked on this summer are valued at $600 million. 

Southern workers coming in will isolate and be monitored up until the time they board flights, like residents and medical travellers are monitored now. Most of those workers will isolate in separate quarantine hotels in Ottawa and Quebec City, away from residents and medical travellers. 

"We need to balance the long term infrastructure needs of the communities with the current COVID-19 restrictions," Kusugak said.  

The municipalities had full say in this move. 

"That decision was theirs alone," he said.

The Nunavut government will pay for hotel rooms and meals so workers can isolate. 

Private companies doing work in Nunavut will pay their own workers' wages during those two-weeks. Kusugak said his department is still negotiating with companies contracted for government projects about how wages will be paid during isolation. 

Around 125 construction workers are already in quarantine now. Kusugak says he expects another 100 workers will be booked into the hotels by Sunday.