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193 quarantined residents, and some pets, to start coming home to Nunavut this weekend

The first group of Nunavummiut quarantined in hotels outside the territory are getting ready to come back home.

Travellers, including students, will fly back after 14 days of mandatory self-isolation

Two of Jessica Toohey's dogs have already returned home, while one will come up after Toohey is finished self-isolating in Ottawa. Some Nunavut residents in mandatory quarantine will start coming home this weekend, says the territorial government. (Submitted by Jessica Toohey)

The first group of Nunavummiut quarantined in hotels outside the territory are getting ready to come back home.

Nunavut's chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson said 193 people will return from southern and neighbouring hubs this weekend. 

The travellers are allowed to come into Nunavut after completing mandatory quarantine in approved hotels for 14 days — in either Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife. 

Those people will be bussed to the airports to catch their flights. Students who are among the group will fly on a chartered plane. 

"Every effort to limit outside contact at the airport will be made," Premier Joe Savikataaq said on Tuesday.  

People returning this weekend do not have to quarantine again at home. But Savikataaq urged travellers to monitor for symptoms and to practise physical distancing. 

Only household celebrations over long weekend: top doctor

With a long weekend coming up, Patterson said it's important to keep these practices in place. 

Any gatherings held inside or outside over the Easter weekend should be with household members only. 

"It's really important that we don't get complacent, that we don't let our guard down. The work that a lot of Nunavummiut are doing, the benefit is that if COVID[-19] does arrive, it will not spread as far," he said.  

About two weeks ago, Nunavut enforced a strict travel ban. Only residents and essential workers are permitted to come to Nunavut right now.

Premier Joe Savikataaq said every effort will be made to keep travellers from coming into contact with COVID-19 on their way home. (Sara Frizzell/CBC)

Patterson said the restrictions are meant to keep the illness from spreading to multiple communities at the same time. He said so far, it's working.  

"It's a relief to have gotten this far and not found COVID[-19] in the territory. But there's still travel into the territory and out of the territory," he said. 

The government said this wave of travellers will free up space at the hotels for people who are still waiting to start their mandatory quarantine.

'It's not the worst thing,' quarantined resident says

Jessica Toohey is one Nunavut resident who still has another week left in mandatory self-isolation at a hotel. She had been travelling with her partner but returned to Ottawa when COVID-19 began to spread in the country. 

When she learned she would have to self-isolate, Toohey said she was discouraged, but understands the reasons for the decision. It took her a few days to get a room at the one designated hotel in Ottawa. 

Guests had to sign a waiver saying they agree to the terms of the isolation. They only go outside when accompanied by a security guard. 

A view of a kitchenette in an Ottawa hotel where some Nunavut residents are spending 14 days in mandatory quarantine. (Submitted by Jessica Toohey)

The couple was travelling with three dogs, but a few of the pups returned to Iqaluit ahead of time, because it was hard to take them outside often. 

Toohey said they brought their own groceries and they are able to order delivery through Uber Eats or Skip the Dishes. 

A nurse who came to see them was wearing a full gown and mask. The housekeeping staff, who are able to do personal laundry as well as hotel linens, are also wearing protective wear. 

"The idea is to keep everybody safe. So it's not the worst thing," Toohey said. With closures in the South and members of the public wearing masks everywhere, she said she'd rather be back in the territory.  

"Being home in Nunavut is a lot more safe, I think than being down in Ottawa." 

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