Nunavut to enter lockdown, N.W.T. travel bubble currently remains

·3 min read

The travel bubble that allows people to flow between the N.W.T. and Nunavut remains open for now, as Nunavut's number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose from nine to 26 in two days.

The bubble, which has been open since June, allows residents to travel between the two territories without isolating either on arrival or on their return – as long as certain criteria are met. Travellers to Nunavut must submit paperwork before they go.

A mandatory two-week isolation period applies in both territories for almost all travellers from any location outside the bubble.

The bubble, however, may be about to change. Nunavut will on Wednesday enter a territory-wide two-week lockdown after confirming eight new COVID-19 cases on Monday.

Six of the cases announced on Monday were in Arviat, where the Nunavut government says community spread is taking place. (Community spread is ordinarily defined as the virus spreading from person to person with no immediately obvious connection to travel, and no clear indication of how someone became infected.)

The remaining two were in Rankin Inlet.

As of 1:30 p.m. on Monday, the travel bubble still existed. The Nunavut government said it remained possible for N.W.T. residents to travel into Nunavut, and it wasn't clear if the N.W.T. government would change its approach toward Nunavummiut arriving in the N.W.T.

In a news conference, Nunavut Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said: “Travellers from Nunavut going to the Northwest Territories is a Northwest Territories government decision, so they may or may not want to revisit that.”

A spokesperson for the N.W.T. government said an update on the travel bubble from the N.W.T.'s perspective was anticipated soon.

N.W.T. residents looking to travel to Nunavut without isolating may still do so, provided they meet outlined criteria and submit the correct paperwork ahead of travel.

However, Nunavut government spokesperson Chris Puglia said travel to Nunavut was not recommended.

Puglia said any changes to the travel bubble once someone began their travel could delay the rest of their trip or require isolation.

For example, if the rules change, N.W.T. residents in Nunavut may find themselves asked to isolate on their return home.

The bubble was formed in June after the N.W.T. had not reported a new case of COVID-19 for more than two months. At the time, Nunavut had no confirmed cases.

Within Nunavut, the two-week lockdown will see residents asked to avoid non-essential travel. Schools are closed, while services and businesses must close and people are asked to work from home if possible.

Masks are recommended in public places and are mandatory in the Kivalliq region and Sanikiluaq.

With Nunavut's newest confirmed cases, the N.W.T. is now the Canadian jurisdiction with the fewest cases of COVID-19 to date. The N.W.T. has reported 15 cases so far, of which five – all in the same Fort Smith house – remain active.

Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio