Travel now allowed among Nunavik communities

People in Nunavik can now travel between communities in the region, as long as they follow public health directions, the Kativik Regional Government announced Friday.

Travel from the South still restricted to essential workers, medical and 'humanitarian' travellers

A stop sign in Kuujjuarapik, Nunavik (northern Quebec). The Kativik Regional Government announced Friday that travel between Nunavik communities would be allowed after a nearly two-month lockdown. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)

After nearly two months under lockdown, people in Nunavik can now travel between their communities, as long as they follow public health directions, the region's government announced Friday.

The Kativik Regional Government stated that the ban on travel between communities in the northern region of Quebec has been lifted, but travel from outside the area is still prohibited with limited exceptions. Travel to Nunavik mine sites is still restricted. 

Residents will be able to fly between Nunavik communities as of Monday, pending a flight schedule that will be announced by Air Inuit, reads a Friday news release from the government. 

It says travel from the South remains restricted to essential workers, medical and "humanitarian" travellers.

The local travel restrictions are being lifted in response to communities' "eagerness to travel, see family members, work, hunt, fish and engage in traditional activities," reads the release. 

Puvirnituq is a village in northern Quebec with about 1,900 people. It saw more than a dozen cases of COVID-19. (Google )

"Families have been separated for extended periods. Being COVID case free for almost a month has opened the door to lifting several restrictions."

The government says Nunavik has been without a confirmed active case of COVID-19 for more than three weeks, "creating an ideal opportunity to gradually re-open the region."

Special conditions for air travellers

The easing of travel restrictions comes with special conditions for those travelling by air.

Only passengers will be allowed in airports and they'll be required to wear a mask and keep a two-metre distance between each other.

If a COVID-19 case does appear in a Nunavik community, reads the release, travel may be banned once again to that community.

Being COVID case free for almost a month has opened the door to lifting several restrictions.- Kativik Regional Government

Nunavik was put under lockdown on April 3, meaning no passenger flights were allowed to any of its 14 communities. 

At the same time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accepted a request by the Nunavik Regional Emergency Preparedness Advisory Committee to send reservists with Canadian Rangers into the region to help contain the spread COVID-19. 

That committee was formed by the Kativik Regional Government to help respond to COVID-19 in Nunavik.

'The lockdown has taken a toll'

"The lockdown has taken a toll on the mental health of many citizens. It is the season where people traditionally harvest fish and wildlife for subsistence," reads Friday's news release.

Also now allowed in the region are indoor and outdoor get-togethers — within limits.

Groups of 25 people or fewer can gather outside, while a household may have up to five visitors inside.

The government encourages people to gather outside as opposed to inside, and to limit the number of people from different households. It also says people from different households should stay two metres apart.

If an elder or person in a household has a chronic illness, they must grant permission for an indoor gathering, and everyone must wear a mask.

The press release specifies that golf tournaments are now allowed, as long as they follow the 25-person cap on outdoor gatherings.

Restrictions on bingos, church activities, workplaces reopening and "infrastructure priorities" will be lifted in the coming weeks, says the Kativik government. 

It cautions however, that restrictions could be reinstated at any time of COVID-19 transmission reoccurs in Nunavik.