The NWT government shut down its Nunavut travel bubble with near-immediate effect as Nunavut announced a lockdown would begin on Wednesday to combat a sudden increase in Covid-19 cases.
Nunavut’s number of confirmed Covid-19 cases rose from nine to 26 in the space of the past two days, the majority coming in the community of Arviat.
Since June, a travel bubble has allowed NWT and Nunavut 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.
At 5pm on Monday, the NWT government said that bubble was now suspended. (Earlier in the day, Nunavut’s government said it would make no changes. This report updates our earlier reporting on the Nunavut government’s stance.)
“Until further notice, Nunavut travellers are now subject to the same self-isolation protocols and travel restrictions as anyone else travelling within the Northwest Territories,” read an advisory from the NWT’s chief public health officer, Dr Kami Kandola.
That means the same mandatory two-week isolation period applicable to almost all travellers from anywhere else now also applies to arrivals from Nunavut.
The bubble’s suspension officially kicks in at noon on Tuesday.
However, anyone in the NWT who has been in Arviat, Rankin Inlet, or Sanikiluaq in the past 14 days must self-isolate immediately for 14 days from the date of their arrival in the NWT, the chief public health officer said.
They must also contact Yellowknife public health at (867) 767-9120 and submit a self-isolation plan to Protect NWT by 4pm on Tuesday.
If you shared accommodation with anyone who has been in any of those three communities in the past 14 days, you must also self-isolate and submit a self-isolation plan as above.
If you arrived in the NWT from any other Nunavut community in the past 14 days, you must self-monitor for Covid-19 symptoms for 14 days, contact Protect NWT (dial 8-1-1), and wear a non-medical mask whenever you’re in a public place.
If you have travelled from Nunavut and don’t have a safe space to self-isolate, contact Protect NWT and one will be arranged. The Government of Nunavut will cover associated isolation centre costs.
Six of Nunavut’s eight new 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.
People from Nunavut travelling to or through the NWT for medical treatment can still do so, but must self-isolate when not attending medical appointments, the NWT government said.
The Nunavut government had earlier said NWT travellers can still travel to Nunavut without isolating in Nunavut on arrival, but travel is not recommended and the necessary paperwork must still be filed with Nunavut’s chief public health officer.
The travel bubble was formed in June after the NWT had not reported a new case of Covid-19 for more than two months. At the time, Nunavut had no confirmed cases.
Within Nunavut, a two-week lockdown beginning on Wednesday 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 NWT is now the Canadian jurisdiction with the fewest cases of Covid-19 to date. The NWT has reported 15 cases so far, of which five – all in the same Fort Smith house – remain active.
Though the travel bubble has been suspended, exemptions for essential services and their associated requirements remain the same, no matter where those involved are coming from.
“We would like to send our best to our friends in Nunavut,” the NWT government’s Monday news release concluded, “as they work tirelessly to contain the situation in the territory.”