Travel between Nunavut and Northwest Territories is now allowed without isolation

Nunavut’s bars and restaurants will be allowed to open at half capacity on June 22.

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Northwest Territories residents and Nunavut residents can now travel freely between the territories, provided they have not left their respective territory for two weeks, Nunavut’s chief public health officer said Monday. (Nunatsiaq News file photo)

As of Monday, Northwest Territories residents can now enter Nunavut without self-isolating.

That follows a similar announcement by the Government of the Northwest Territories on Friday, June 12, that it would allow Nunavut residents to enter the N.W.T. without undergoing a 14-day isolation period.

The N.W.T. has had no active cases of COVID-19 since April 20.

“Anyone who’s been in N.W.T. for at least two weeks.… I don’t think they’re at any greater risk of transmitting COVID-19 than someone from Iqaluit or Rankin Inlet,” Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said at a news conference Monday.

The N.W.T. currently requires anyone entering the territory to complete a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period and submit a self-isolation plan. This will not apply to people travelling from Nunavut, Patterson said.

The new agreement between Nunavut and N.W.T. comes with a few strict conditions, Patterson said.

First, travel must only originate from Nunavut to the N.W.T. or from the N.W.T. to Nunavut.

In addition, travellers must not have been outside their respective territory for two weeks prior to travelling. Travellers must also stay in each respective territory for the duration of their stay.

Travellers from the N.W.T. who wish to enter Nunavut will need to write to [email protected] and complete and sign a Nunavut-N.W.T. travellers declaration form. The same rule applies to Nunavummiut who wish to return home after staying in the N.W.T.

“Failure to do so will affect entry into Nunavut. Failure to answer truthfully will be subject to fines,” Patterson said.

Patterson said his office will issue a letter of approval, and travellers will be required to present the letter prior to entry into either territory.

The new agreement also applies to people currently in the GN’s isolation hub in Yellowknife, as long as they have not been outside the N.W.T., Patterson said.

“I want to reassure Nunavummiut that should the current situation change in either territory, we will reassess this common travel area and take all the necessary measures for the health and safety of Nunavummiut,” Patterson said.

Health Minister George Hickes said as the new agreement was just announced, the GN has not yet had conversations with the airlines about whether to increase the number of flights to the N.W.T.

“We haven’t had a chance to have any in-depth discussions, but I do know that the airlines have been following the demand.… I would anticipate the market will drive the demand,” Hickes said.

Travel restrictions for Nunavut residents returning home from southern Canada are still in place, Patterson said.

Bars, restaurants can reopen on June 22

Every two weeks since June 1, the Government of Nunavut reassesses reopening measures.

Beginning Monday, gyms in Nunavut are permitted to open for solo workouts and pools can open for lap swims. Dental clinics, chiropractic clinics, massage therapy and physical therapy services can also open.

The following can reopen on June 22, Patterson announced Monday:

  • Restaurants and bars at half capacity with last call at 9 p.m.
  • Personal services such as hairdressers and nail salons
  • Theaters
  • Churches

On June 29, youth centers and day camps will be allowed to reopen. Also on June 29, long-term care facilities will allow immediate family members to visit, with no more than one or two visitors at a time per resident, Patterson said.

As for bars and restaurants, Patterson said facility operators need to ensure that customers respect social distancing.

“Liquor inspectors have the authority to enforce orders regarding social distancing and will be monitoring to ensure adherence to these conditions,” Patterson said.

Although restrictions continue to be eased, Patterson said people should still continue social distancing and regular hand washing.

“Though we can reasonably forecast what the next few weeks may bring, we must remain aware of the possible need to change or reintroduce public health measures. Although we are in a position to loosen restrictions, we remain vulnerable to the impacts of this global pandemic,” Patterson said.