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Nunatsiavut students self-isolating before travelling to north coast of Labrador

Julia Dicker is a university student from Nain who is in Happy Valley-Goose Bay self-isolating before returning home.
Julia Dicker is a university student from Nain who is in Happy Valley-Goose Bay self-isolating before returning home. - Contributed


HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY — Post-secondary students travelling back from Newfoundland or other provinces are returning to the north coast of Labrador now and the Nunatsiavut Government (NG) is asking them to self-isolate in Happy Valley-Goose Bay before coming home.

Tyler Edmunds, first minister of the NG and representative for Postville, said they understand the isolation period can be tough for those who have to wait, but the restriction is for everyone’s benefit.

“We’ve been trying to support our students as much as we can while trying to minimize the risk for COVID-19 in the communities,” he said. “It’s good for people to know, too, that students coming back are isolating first. It can lessen the anxiety people are feeling now.”

Tyler Edmunds, first minister of the Nunatsiavut Government and representative for Postville, said the self-isolation for students returning to the coast is for everyone’s benefit. - COURTESY OF THE NUNATSIAVUT GOVERNMENT
Tyler Edmunds, first minister of the Nunatsiavut Government and representative for Postville, said the self-isolation for students returning to the coast is for everyone’s benefit. - COURTESY OF THE NUNATSIAVUT GOVERNMENT

Edmunds said since NG put its travel restrictions in place in March, students have been returning home and they’ve been trying to make that easy and safe for everyone involved.

Julia Dicker, a student from Nain who has been in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for about a week, just finished her first year at Memorial University in St. John’s and was planning to stay in school all summer, but when the COVID-19 restrictions happened she got ready to go back home.

When she knew she was returning, she contacted the appropriate people in NG, and it was seamless from there, she said. When she landed in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, transportation was there to take her to the room she was staying in, and she has been provided with a grocery voucher for food while she’s in isolation.

It’s been lonely at the hotel in Happy Valley-Goose Bay where she and other people waiting to go back to the coast are staying, she said, but she understands why they have to self-isolate.

“I don’t think my town could handle the virus. In case I was exposed to it, I wouldn’t want to bring that home with me,” she said.

Communities on the north coast of Labrador have limited access to health care and are a vulnerable population. Dicker said there are many Inuit elders in Nain, teachers and role models, who have knowledge about the language and culture.

“We look up to them and I know that elders are more at risk with the virus. I just want to be cautious about that.”

Edmunds said the reality is there isn’t the capacity to deal with something like COVID-19 on the north coast, with some communities only having one nurse and limited access to things like ventilators. Overcrowding complicates things, he said, referring to the housing crunch communities on the coast have been dealing with for years.

They have to be proactive in their approach to this, he said, and the students staying in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are part of that.

Restrictions not going away soon

NG was ahead of the curve in trying to limit travel between their communities and the rest of the province, even asking people to only go between the towns for essential reasons.

As an Inuit government, they don’t have any authority to enforce non-essential travel, but Edmunds said most people have been abiding by the travel and distancing advisories so far.

The province announced on Thursday, April 30 it would start easing restrictions on businesses and isolation protocols, but Edmunds said he doesn’t expect any short-term changes to Nunatsiavut’s approach.

“I can’t see the restrictions around travel and the practices we’ve put in place going away any time soon. We know that this virus is very pronounced in some areas outside of our province, so we have to be really vigilant in protecting our communities.”

Evan Careen is a local journalism initiative reporter covering Labrador for SaltWire Network.


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