The Government of Nunavut is undertaking several initiatives to help Nunavummiut through this latest wave of Covid-19, Premier P.J. Akeeagok said during a Jan. 13 Covid-19 update, with more than $8 million in additional funding allocated.

These initiatives include $4.5 million to bolster Covid-19 isolation food support programs, $4 million which will go toward critical community services such as water, sewage and other critical functions and the return of the $5,000 small business support program business relief funding.

The isolation food support program can be accessed by emailing IsolationSupports@gov.nu.ca or by calling 1-888-902-0872 in order to get the process started. Nunavummiut who need to access supplies while in isolation can reach out for support.

The $4 million going toward critical services will help hamlets and municipalities with funds to ensure Covid-19 response efforts don’t compromise a community’s financial status. This is run by the Department of Community and Government Services and funding is provided by the federal government.

“Water, sewer, that’s a daily thing every household needs support on, we’re working with every hamlet and municipality to ensure services go uninterrupted as long as possible,” said David Joanasie, minister of community and government services.

The small business support program provides business relief funding of up to $5,000 to subsidize eligible business expenses such as insurance, licensing fees, office rentals, utilities or non-refundable business expenses for goods rendered unusable due to the pandemic. Businesses with fewer than 10 employees or less than $500,000 in gross sales are eligible.

More information on this can be found on the Government of Nunavut website. This initiative is run by the Department of Economic Development and Transportation. Artists, crafts people, retailers and harvesters can apply for funding.

Lockdown coming to an end

Nunavut’s circuit breaker lockdown will end Jan. 17 with a slight easing of public health restrictions, including the reopening of childcare facilities and a lift of community travel restrictions, though non-essential travel is still discouraged.

“What we foresee is those communities that continue to not have cases will have measures eased earlier. Communities that continue to have transmission and new cases will stay at this current level for a longer period of time.

“We’re really only easing them a little bit and (are) still really tight compared to much of the country,” said chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson.

Nunavut has 172 confirmed cases as of Jan. 13, while there have been a total of 202 recovered in this current wave of Covid-19. Seven people have been hospitalized.

Nunavut teachers are expected to return to work Jan. 17 for remote teaching, with a return to in-class learning set for Jan. 24. Whether that is will be at either 100 per cent capacity or 50 per cent capacity, will depend on the Covid situation in each community.

Forty-one education staff in the territory are still on prior approved leave. There are 29 staff who are in isolation, some of whom are isolating due to symptoms present, while others are in isolation due to their vaccination status, according to education minister Pamela Gross.

Transmission, vaccination and testing

While Nunavut’s mines continue to see new introductions among staff arriving from down south, Patterson said there is little to worry about right now as it is not being transferred from person to person.

“(There’s) either no transmission or limited transmission on-site at this time,” said Patterson on the mines.

Among the Elders in Ottawa’s Embassy West, one has recovered from Covid-19. There are currently seven Nunavut residents at the facility with Covid-19. Three interpreters are currently assisting the Elders at Embassy West.

“We continue to encourage essential caregivers from Nunavut to travel to Ottawa to assist,” said health minister John Main.

“That’s an offer that continues to be made available to families.”

A number of Nunavut’s health centres remain limited to emergency services only due to staff shortages, a matter which is hindering Nunavut’s ongoing vaccination roll-out.

“Unfortunately due to staffing issues we have had to pause vaccinations in various communities,” said Main, “we are planning later this month to roll out some mass vaccination clinics across the territory.”

Main did not specify which communities are still short-staffed and says the GN is still waiting on the federal government to help with staffing.

“On the human resource front we are still waiting for our federal partners in terms of will we get assistance so we can deliver more vaccines so we can give a better response to Covid-19. We are still waiting as of today.”

The rapid test kits requested by the federal government have also arrived and are being handed out at the airports of gateway communities such as Edmonton, Rankin Inlet, Ottawa, Iqaluit, Winnipeg, Sanikiluaq and Yellowknife. The requested supply of N95 masks has not arrived.

A negative rapid test result is not a replacement for a 14-day isolation.

Isolation requirements for unvaccinated people returning from travel in the south have not changed and “the hubs are still open,” said Patterson.

Lab testing is also expected to pick up in the coming days and new results are soon expected to come back within 24 hours either from the Rankin Inlet or Iqaluit labs.

“It doesn’t mean we’ll return to the degree of mass testing we used to do, we’ll still be limiting PCR based on priority groups and new communities,” said Patterson. “While we will limit the amount of testing we do, we will still test certain individuals. Although in some cases we will rely on symptoms to diagnose Covid-19.”

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