Nunavut students will still be required to wear masks after other COVID-19 restrictions end

As Nunavut prepares to emerge from its public health emergency, students and staff will still be required to wear masks in schools and on school buses.

Education Minister Pamela Gross said on Thursday masks would continue to be provided to schools.

Gross made the announcement during a COVID-19 news conference on Thursday morning. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson, Health Minister John Main and Human Resources Minister Margaret Nakashuk also attended.

The territory announced on Wednesday that it would end its health emergency on April 11, along with the remaining public health restrictions.

This means masks will no longer be required in public, although they will still be required in healthcare facilities and government offices.

Gross said keeping masks in schools is consistent with that requirement and said his department would re-evaluate masks if necessary.

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Gross said his department also expects to see ventilation improvements this year at schools in the territory.

This will include upgrades to ventilation systems and cleaning of filters, thanks to an investment by the federal government, she said.

“We look forward to seeing this work done and to having our schools as safe as possible,” she said.

“Relive Normally”

Patterson said the territory is moving toward a response to COVID-19 like any other communicable disease.

“I understand that some are worried about these changes but we are confident that we are in a place where we can start living normally again,” he said.

He noted that the virus has not gone away and asked Nunavummiut to manage their own risk by staying home if they are sick, wearing masks if they must have contact with people and being vaccinate.

He also noted that businesses and organizations will still have the right to require masks in their buildings and can limit their capacity if they wish.

If the territory begins to see COVID-19 overwhelm the health system in some communities, it will consider introducing local states of emergency, he added.

Nakashuk said government workplaces will continue to carry out site-specific risk assessments and personal risk assessments for staff. Masks will be mandatory in common indoor areas of government buildings.

She said staff will no longer need to perform daily self-assessments of their symptoms and contact tracing protocols will end.

Margaret Nakashuk, MP for Pangnirtung and Minister of Human Resources for Nunavut, photographed November 17, 2021. (Matisse Harvey/Radio Canada)

“An important step”

For Nunavummiut who are concerned about the lifting of public health restrictions, Health Minister Main said the past two years have taught people how to protect themselves against COVID-19: get vaccinated, wear masks and monitor symptoms.

“All of these tools are still there for Nunavummiut,” he said.

Main said remembering these tools will help people protect each other.

He thanked healthcare staff, contractors and support staff for their efforts in providing COVID-19 services.

“Ending the public health emergency related to COVID-19 is an important step. I know many Nunavummiut are looking forward to the day when it would be safe to end public health restrictions,” he said.

“There are risks in our path, but if we keep our lessons in mind, I am confident that Nunavummiut will continue to stay safe and stay strong against COVID-19. »