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Nunavut declares state of public health emergency

Nunavut’s Minister of Health George Hickes has declared a state of public health emergency in the territory in relation to the novel coronavirus or COVID-19.

No confirmed cases of COVID-19 in any of the territories

Nunavut Minister of Health Georges Hickes has declared a public health state of emergency in the territory. (Vincent Robinet/CBC)

Nunavut's Minister of Health George Hickes has declared a state of public health emergency in the territory in relation to the novel coronavirus or COVID-19.

Hickes made the announcement, on the advice of the territory's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Michael Patterson, at a press conference Wednesday.

Health officials in Yukon and the Northwest Territories also declared public health emergencies Wednesday. 

There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in any of the territories.

Mandatory home isolation 

At the press conference, Hickes said anyone who has arrived in Nunavut since Sunday, March 15, is required to go into self-isolation immediately for 14 days — unless they work in essential services. That means people must stay at home and not go to public places like the post office or grocery stores, even if they are not showing symptoms. 

People living with those who are self-isolating, but who have not travelled outside the territory, are asked to self-monitor. 

"We are relying upon members of the public to recognize how critical a step this is to continue with the safety of their family, the community and the territory, '' Hickes said. 

'If we wait for COVID-19 to be in town to adjust our activities it will be too late,' says Nunavut's Chief Medical Officer of Health Michael Patterson. (Alex Brockman/CBC )

People coming from the South who work in essential services such as doctors, nurses, RCMP officers and other first responders will go through an advanced screening process to allow them to work. They will be checked daily for symptoms. 

Exceptions will not be made for essential service workers who are coming from high risk areas where there is known community transmission of COVID-19. 

People scheduled for non-urgent medical travel will have their appointments rescheduled.

"If we wait for COVID-19 to be in town to adjust our activities, it will be too late," Patterson said. 

Under Nunavut's Public Health Act, a state of public health emergency expires after 14 days, but the health minister may extend it if the public health emergency continues to exist and the extension is required to protect the public health. 

During a state of public health emergency, Nunavut's chief medical officer of health has expanded powers to:

  • Authorize qualified people to render specific aid.
  • Enter into an agreement for services with any agency of the government of Canada, a province or another territory.
  • Procure and provide for the distribution of medical supplies, aid and equipment in any part of Nunavut.
  • Make orders restricting travel to or from Nunavut or within the territory.
  • Enter or authorize any person to enter any premises without a warrant.
  • Take any other measures they reasonably believe are necessary for the protection of public health during the public health emergency.

All bars to close Friday, restaurants takeaway only 

All bars in Nunavut will be closed by Friday. Restaurants will be takeout only. (David Thurton/CBC)

A number of other safety regulations are being put into effect in the territory until further notice.

All bars in Nunavut will be closed by Friday. The manager of the Storehouse in Iqaluit said they will be closing immediately. 

All restaurants will be takeout only, with no more than 10 people in line at a time. 

Taxis, the only form of public transit in Nunavut, will only pick up one passenger at a time. 

Food centres and soup kitchens in Nunavut will be allowed to stay open for five days in order to lessen the impact on food insecurity. They will then be given takeout containers for people to take away food. 

Non-essential territorial government staff will begin working from home starting by the end of the day Friday.

Starting Tuesday night, medical workers began doing swabs to test for COVID-19 at peoples' homes. 

There have been up to 60 tests done for COVID-19 in Nunavut. Half have come back negative and the rest are still waiting for results.

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