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Nunavut introduces fines up to $50,000 or jail time for not self-isolating

A “relatively small group” of individuals are not adhering to the mandatory 14 day self-isolation rule. This a recurring problem where some people, who have symptoms and may have been exposed to COVID-19, continue to visit public spaces instead of self-isolating, explained Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer.

“If you want to get home to Nunavut. You have to comply with the orders,” says Health Minister George Hicks. There is zero tolerance for violating the isolation period.

Rajnesh Sharma/ NNSL photo

Public health nurses, who check-in with people under investigation for COVID-19, have observed this behaviour.

“Again, it's a small number of people, but it's enough that it could trigger a lot of extra cases if we don't get them under isolation,” said Dr. Michael Patterson during Monday’s press conference.

These concerns have led Nunavut’s top doctor to put out a public health order that will be effective tomorrow morning. According to the order, all individuals identified as persons under investigation for COVID-19 are subject to a mandatory 14 day self-isolation order. Individuals will be fined up to $50,000 or up to six months in jail, if the mandatory isolation is not obeyed.

Ultimately, the courts will set the fines and penalties.

“I would hope that with stronger wording and giving people copies of the order that we can reinforce the importance of this and the risk that they're causing for other people in their community,” said Patterson.

“We felt the need to take this step to highlight the fact that this is serious and that we need to take these steps to control this illness.”

There are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut. The total number of people currently under investigation for COVID-19 are 180, while 79 people have been cleared.

It is mandatory that anyone who is under investigation to self-isolate at home for two weeks, explained Premier Joe Savikataaq.

“People who go out when they're ill with a communicable disease are putting other's lives and well being at risk for their own convenience. And that is no different from driving drunk,” said Nunavut’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson.

“Covid-19 is truly a life and death situation,” said Premier Joe Savikataaq.

“And we aren't willing to take any chances,” said Savikataaq adding, safety is the number one priority.

Meanwhile in the south, the GN is continuing to help Nunavummiut self-isolate in hotels. All residents of Nunavut, who want to return to the territory must self-isolate in Yellowknife, Edmonton, Winnipeg or Ottawa. It is only after completing the 14 day mandatory self-isolation and receiving a clearance from the chief public health officer, can an individual return to Nunavut.

The Department of Health has been educating hotel staff about trauma informed care. Mental health counsellors from Nunavut are providing care to those in need through calls.

Hotel staff are serving snacks and comfortable food to Nunavummiut, and trying to find ways to get country food. The hotels are providing weekly menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner services.

“I can appreciate that everyone has different tastes and food and they may not like some of the items on the menu. However the meals are the meal menus are designed to give variety and to meet daily nutritional and dietary guidelines,” said Health Minister George Hicks.

Some food delivery is now permitted but at the client’s own expense.

Individuals are being closely monitored during outdoor breaks. Anyone who leaves the room without a security escort will be evicted from the hotel and will not be permitted to return home until the travel restrictions are lifted.

No visitors are allowed to meet individuals who are self-isolating.

“If you want to get home to Nunavut. You have to comply with the orders,” Hicks said. There is zero tolerance for violating the isolation period, he emphasized.

“Whether it's in your home or away from your home, the only way to stop transmission is to isolate individuals who have this illness,” said Patterson.