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Gatherings of more than 5 people prohibited in Nunavut, as gov’t clarifies COVID-19 rules

The government of Nunavut is clarifying the rules around how Nunavummiut are expected to operate under the public health emergency in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

It issued a new public health order that replaces a previous one prohibiting mass gatherings that came into effect on March 23.  

The new order is more specific about what is allowed and what isn’t. 

It’s designed to help peace officers and RCMP interpret the rules, should their involvement be necessary, according to Nunavut’s Chief Public Health Officer Michael Patterson. Their involvement should be the exception and not the norm, Patterson said during a Monday news briefing to discuss the situation in the territory. 

“We recognized the need to provide clearer definitions,” he said. Patterson worked on the order with the Department of Justice. 

The order prohibits all gatherings of more than five people. Gatherings are defined as any organized events including concerts, weddings and funerals. 

It also applies to private gatherings in homes, such as shared meals or kids’ playdates with individuals who do not live together. He asked that Nunavummiut still try to avoid contact with those they don’t live with. 

Across the country, Patterson said the consensus seems to be that groups of five are about as low as governments can reasonably go in prohibiting gatherings. 

The order will remain in effect until either COVID-19 comes to Nunavut and stricter orders are required or the risk is brought under control and things can begin opening up again.

Physical distancing should continue, premier says 

It’s been six weeks since Nunavummiut have been experiencing closures and social isolation because of COVID-19 and Premier Joe Savikataaq said those restrictions need to stay in place. 

“Don’t visit so much,” he told CBC News on Monday. “If we continue [physical] distancing and if there is a positive case, the spread would be limited.”

As of Monday, 227 people are under investigation for COVID-19 in Nunavut, and 323 people await results. 

“It takes too long from when a person gets samples sent out until you get the results,” he said. That wait time is still about a week. 

The government announced on Friday that all Nunavut Arctic College buildings will stay closed until the fall, including residences. It’s asking students to return home by early May.  

The government wants the construction season to go ahead as usual but has no decision yet on if construction workers are critical workers. If they aren’t, they’ll have to quarantine before coming to Nunavut to work. 

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