Fully vaccinated travellers bound for Nunavut will no longer have to self-isolate, territorial health officials announced Monday.
The measure takes effect June 14. It applies to people who received their final dose of any Health Canada-approved vaccine at least two weeks prior to travel. Vaccinated parents of unvaccinated children will still have to self-isolate.
"Children can bring the virus into the community and can spread it and that … would increase the risk for people who haven't been able to get vaccinated," said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer.
Since last March anyone entering the territory has had to spend two weeks in a government approved hotel, which has cost the territory about $73.89 million (excluding construction workers) as of May 21, according to a communication specialist with the Department of Health.
Patterson said Monday that there's "increasing evidence that the vaccines not only reduce the likelihood of somebody getting … the infection, [but] they also reduce the severity of the disease," and they slow the spread of the virus.
"So all of those things, made it clear that it's time to do this," he said. "We've been planning for this for a little while now."
He said the territory is confident that removing the isolation requirements for this group represents a low risk for COVID-19 being introduced in Nunavut.
Vaccinated travellers must apply in advance for an isolation exemption. They'll get an authorization letter which is required to board any aircraft headed for Nunavut. Vaccinated people who are already staying in one of the Nunavut government's southern isolation hubs can apply to leave early.
Nunavut residents will have to consent to having their vaccination status confirmed. Non-residents must have "valid government documentation proving vaccination status" to get their isolation exemption approved, a government news release stated.
Patterson says that proof could include documents like a letter from a doctor and added that anyone caught "providing inaccurate or dishonest information" will be subject to a fine.
Travellers will still have to follow all public health rules.
Officials say there's no plans at this time to close the isolation hubs as there are still people, like children and others, passing through them.
Patterson said when it comes to travel within the territory, for example from Iqaluit to another community, if a person is not vaccinated then there won't be travel exemption changes until "the outbreak is over, and the chances of spreading to other communities is minimal."
"For individuals who are fully vaccinated … starting Monday, June 14, they will be able to get an exemption to that requirement to isolate," Patterson said. He added they'll still have to contact the CPHO to "make sure that everything's taken care of."