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‘It is necessary’: Nunavut orders lockdown, bans gatherings, over rising COVID cases

IQALUIT, NUNAVUT — Nunavut ordered an immediate “circuit-breaker” lockdown just before Christmas over rising COVID-19 cases in various communities.

The government said Friday that all indoor gatherings are banned and all non-essential businesses are to close. Libraries, gyms, arenas and churches must also close. Restaurants are limited to takeout food only.

Visitors are no longer allowed in long-term care homes and elders’ facilities. Daycares can remain open for essential workers only. And schools are to remain closed until at least Jan. 10.

Outdoor gatherings are limited to five people.

The changes come one day after the territory announced tighter restrictions in Iqaluit, when a case was confirmed in a person who has not left the city for more than a month.

“With introductions of COVID-19 in multiple communities over the past week, we must move to the strictest public health restrictions across the entire territory,” Dr. Michael Patterson, the chief public health officer for the territory, said in a news release Friday.

“This is a circuit-breaker approach to minimize further spread to more of our communities. We need to act quickly to help trace and contain the outbreak.

Patterson said the lockdown will make the holiday season harder for many, “but it is necessary for the health and safety of our communities and loved ones.”

Health officials reported five new COVID-19 cases Friday, a jump from the three announced the day before.

Patterson said there were three cases in Iqaluit, three in Pangnirtung, one in Sanirajak and one in Rankin Inlet.

The territory said travel in and out of Rankin Inlet is restricted to essential purposes only. Travel would remain limited for essential travel only for Iqaluit and Pangnirtung as well.

Residents of the community are able to travel home if they are essential workers and have an exemption letter from their employer or the chief public health officer of Canada.

Also Friday, NDP MP Lori Idlout, who represents the Nunavut riding, said she tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.

“After learning that I was recently a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, I followed the public health measures by isolating and getting myself tested as quickly as I could,” she said in a statement.

The MP said she is isolating at home in Iqaluit and is “doing well” and “in good spirits.”

“I am double vaccinated, which is helping to keep my symptoms mild,” Idlout said.

“I am sharing my diagnosis as a reminder that the pandemic is still ongoing. Even though we are all tired of the pandemic, it is very important to get vaccinated and get your booster shot when you can.”

She added that people must remain calm as the territory deals with COVID-19 cases appearing in more communities.

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