Public health restrictions in Iqaluit to be eased Thursday

Nunavut's public health officials say indoor gatherings can be expanded, and some facilities may reopen, thanks to the level of vaccination in community.

'Remain diligent' as restrictions lift, says Nunavut premier

Nunavut's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson announced updates to restrictions on Iqaluit, and how they will be eased by this Thursday. (Jackie McKay/CBC News)

Some COVID-19 restrictions in Iqaluit will be lifted Thursday, Nunavut's chief public health officer, Dr. Michael  Patterson, said Monday in a news release.

As of June 3, people can hold indoor home gatherings with five people in addition to household members. Outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people will also be allowed.

There are now nine active cases of COVID-19 in Iqaluit following an outbreak that grew to over 240 positive cases and peaked at 86 active cases. No new cases were reported in the territory Monday.

"Case counts in Iqaluit continue to fall and vaccine uptake in the city is high among adults," said Patterson.

"The availability of the COVID-19 vaccine means there has been limited spread in this outbreak, unlike what we saw in Arviat prior to Moderna being available."

In Arviat, a total of 339 people tested positive for COVID-19 following an outbreak in November and a second wave of infections in the community earlier this year.

Public health officials still recommend people keep their social circles small.

Long-term care facilities, continuing care centres, boarding homes and health centres can allow up to two visitors from within immediate families. All visitors must wear a mask.

Daycares and schools may open in stage three of the territory's opening plan for schools. Stage three is a blend of in-school and remote learning. Elementary school students will be in class three days a week and middle and high school students will attend in-person two days a week, with staggered schedules and no group activities. 

Government offices and private businesses can also open with masks and physical distancing in place. 

Indoor gatherings, such as support groups and group counselling, can resume with up to 20 people.

Indoor events, at places of worship and arenas, can have up to 25 people or 25 per cent of a facility's capacity, whichever is less. Singing is still not permitted and there can be no more than 25 spectators and no team sports. 

Libraries and galleries will open for individual and family visits, and fitness facilities can open for solo workouts with masks.

All public playgrounds, municipal parks, and territorial parks will be open, but their respective buildings will stay closed.

Travel still restricted

Travel in and out of Iqaluit will still be restricted to trips approved by the office of the chief public health officer for essential reasons. 

Masks are mandatory in indoor spaces and physical distancing of six feet is still required.

Theatres and personal services such as hairdressers and beauty salons, remain closed. Restaurants and licensed establishments remain restricted to takeout only.

Premier Joe Savikataaq said people should "remain diligent and make responsible decisions" as restrictions ease.

"Iqalummiut, we've worked hard to manage this outbreak," he said.

"These eased measures are not an excuse to take chances, but a good opportunity to continue to make progress in living with the virus. Thanks for all your hard work and patience."

Vaccine clinics are continuing across the territory, and appointments are available through local health centres. 

Anyone who has reason to believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 is advised to call the hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET, or notify their community health centre right away, and immediately isolate at home for 14 days. Please do not go to the health centre in person, the release states.