The Qikiqtaaluk region — except for Iqaluit and Kinngait — will see COVID-19 restrictions eased on Monday.
The communities will move to the same restrictions as Rankin Inlet, because Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said that the travel restrictions out of Iqaluit are working to prevent the spread of the virus.
That means most Qikiqtaaluk communities will be able to have outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people, and residents will be allowed up to 15 people in their house, in addition to the people they live with.
Masks remain mandatory in those communities.
At a news conference on Friday, Patterson said the territory expects to have enough of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for all Nunavut's teenagers in the first half of June, but said he doesn't have an exact date yet.
Patterson continued to encourage people identified for surveillance COVID-19 testing to get swabbed, saying those who do will only have to isolate if their test is positive.
For the surveillance testing of residential buildings, Patterson said public health is looking to see if there's transmission between neighbours spending a few minutes inside together. He said transmission off surfaces like doorknobs is very rare — in this pandemic less than 1 in 10,000 cases have been contracted from contact with objects.
As of Friday, the territory had 45 active cases of COVID-19, 44 of which are in Iqaluit with the remaining case in Kinngait.
Low return rate for remote learning packages
Patterson said schools in the Qikiqtaaluk will be in stage two of the school reopening plan, which means elementary students go back to school full-time and high school students will return for part of the week on a rotating schedule with remote learning in between.
Kinngait schools will stay in stage three which has all students attending in-person only part-time. Iqaluit schools will stay closed for all in-person learning at stage four, which means full-time remote learning.
Kinngait is in stage three because the positive case in the community is contained with no evidence of community spread.
"In Iqaluit we're still seeing transmission occasionally getting in to new house and some community transmission events, so it's not appropriate to open up the schools right now, when we get to the point where most if not all cases are isolated, we'll consider opening the schools at that point," Patterson said.
He did say that with vaccination rates, Iqaluit may be able to ease restrictions earlier than Arviat was able to.
Minister David Joanasie said the homework packages sent home with students for remote learning focus on literacy and numeracy and reinforcing what students have already learned.
The pick-up rate for take-home learning packages is between 72 to 96 per cent for the schools the Education Department has numbers for. The return rate for those same packages is 35 to 37 per cent, Joanasie said.
Despite that low return rate, Joanasie said the teachers are putting together report cards based on the packages and assessments done when schools were open.
"The school closures have provided different opportunities for students, we understand they're in different circumstances and different households have different situations, but it's an opportunity for students to reflect on personal growth," Joanasie said.
When asked if the lockdowns in Arviat and Iqaluit will affect this year's graduation rate, Joanasie said the Department of Education hasn't seen much fluctuation in graduation rates in recent years and didn't expect anything different this year.
Nunavut government offers food hampers
The government of Nunavut is now providing its own isolation hampers to those who need them. The hampers will have two weeks of food and essential items, including country food when it is available, and they can be modified for dietary restrictions and discretionary add-on items.
Premier Joe Savikataaq said that as of Thursday 116 hampers had been delivered. The distribution began in mid-May.
The hampers will be offered when public health is doing their mandatory check-ins, so Savikataaq asked those who need them not to call the COVID-19 hotline.
Miss the news conference? Watch it here:
Patterson said on Wednesday that Iqaluit is vaccinating about 100 people a day. Health staff have also been stretched while managing the outbreak and supporting the vaccine rollout with most working 10 to 12 hours a day, he said, six or seven days a week, to respond to the outbreak.
Since the lockdown began in Iqaluit there have been 119 complaints to the RCMP of public health measure violations and of those, five have resulted in arrests along with one fine.
Iqaluit RCMP say the arrests were made on a COVID-19 related call, but the people were charged under the criminal code. The charges were in relation to causing a disturbance and mischief and involved alcohol.