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N.W.T. closes travel bubble as Nunavut announces lockdown

The N.W.T. 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 N.W.T. 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 5 p.m. on Monday, the N.W.T. government said that bubble was now suspended. (Earlier in the day, Nunavut’s government said it would make no changes.)

“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 N.W.T.’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 N.W.T. who has been in the Nunavut communities of 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 N.W.T., 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 N.W.T. by 4 p.m. 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 N.W.T. 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 N.W.T. 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 N.W.T. for medical treatment can still do so, but must self-isolate when not attending medical appointments, the N.W.T. government said.

The Nunavut government had earlier said N.W.T. 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 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, 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.
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