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“It’s up to all of us to limit the spread of COVID-19,” says Nunavut premier

Nunavut residents need to do their part to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by keeping their distance from one another, says Premier Joe Savikataaq.

“This is a stressful, disruptive time for everyone, but it’s up all of us to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Savikataaq said during a daily update on the pandemic on Tuesday, March 17, in Iqaluit.

“It’s time to stay at home as much as possible when not at work, even if you’re feeling healthy.”

And if you have been tested for COVID-19, it is “imperative” that you stay home until your test result comes in, said Nunavut’s chief medical officer of health, Michael Patterson.

There are still no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Nunavut, but more people are being tested every day, said Patterson.

This was the second daily news conference. A day earlier, the premier sat elbow to elbow with Patterson and two other ministers. Today, the two took turns speaking, with one waiting in the wings while the other was at the microphone, to maintain their distance.

“Social distancing and handwashing will make a huge difference in slowing down the spread of COVID-19,” Savikataaq said, “even in overcrowded houses.”

If you have “concerning travel history or other possible exposure” or cough and cold symptoms, you should get tested, Patterson said.

If you think you need to be tested, and it’s not an emergency, Savikataaq said to call your health centre, or the Qikiqtani General Hospital if you’re in Iqaluit, and you will be assessed by phone to determine if you need to go in to be tested.

And, Patterson emphasized, if you don’t have symptoms, you do not need to be tested.

To test for COVID-19, health-care practitioners use a swab to collect a sample, which is then sent to a lab in Winnipeg, said Patterson.

There are sampling swabs in every community right now, and 600 arrived in the territory the other day, with more en route.

Air travel is what slows down getting results back. It takes up to four days to get results back to Iqaluit, and the longest it takes from some communities is five to six days.

The GN is actively working to put together a fiscal package to make sure no one suffers financially because of the lockdown happening now to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but Savikataaq said it’s too early to give details.

Patterson recently met with wardens at the correctional facilities in Iqaluit and passed on information about how to properly clean them, and talked about contingency plans in case COVID-19 shows up in a jail.

The federal government is currently advising people to not travel if it’s not necessary. Patterson said that the GN is not banning the return of people who live in the territory. But, upon their return, residents should avoid joining any gathering outside work unless it’s essential, and should monitor themselves for two weeks. If symptoms appear during that time, they should isolate themselves and call their health centre for an over-the-phone assessment.

Meagan Deuling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News