First case of COVID-19 in Nunavik confirmed

Health authorities in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec have confirmed a case of the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

The Public Health Department of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services confirmed a woman in the region of an unspecified age had tested positive in a release sent Saturday night.

The release does not identify the woman's location. However, Kativik Regional Police confirmed in a news release the case is in Salluit, a hamlet of about 1200 people on the Hudson Strait.

A curfew, restricting movement between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., was subsequently put in place.

The release from the board says the patient is currently in self-isolation "and will continue to do so until instructed otherwise," despite "sharing a house with others."

"The patient … is isolated in a specific room and hygiene measures are being strictly applied," it says.

"Ever since the patient has been tested, she was put under home isolation and a list of contacts was gathered," Dr. Marie Rochette, regional director of public health for the board, is quoted as saying.

Health authorities will now contact those individuals who are believed to have been in close contact with the individual, described as having spent "a period of at least 15 minutes at a distance of two metres or less."

"Instructions will be given to the close contacts and health professionals will follow up with them daily," the release continues.

"The health authorities are ensuring all proper follow-ups with everyone concerned," it says.

"Action has been taken in a timely manner; all appropriate public health measures are in place. All physical and psychosocial needs are currently being addressed."

Community locked down 

In addition to the curfew, Kativik Regional Police said all flights in and out of Salluit have been cancelled, and the airport is closed to traffic except for "extreme exceptions."

"Local leaders are asking that citizens refrain from stigmatizing those who fall victim to the coronavirus," the police release reads. "They urge citizens to be well informed of the symptoms and follow the proper means to protect themselves."

Police and officials from the village of Salluit will be ensuring residents "comply with the curfew, practice social distancing and refrain from taking any actions that may threaten the well-being of others," it says.

In its release, the health service urges residents across the region to continue hygiene measures such as washing hands frequently, keeping a distance of two metres, staying at home as much as possible and avoiding visiting friends and family members in close spaces.

Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 are asked not to visit the local health centre, but call ahead or contact the Info-Health line at 1-888-662-7482.

"The [board] acknowledges that this period is highly stressful and wishes to reassure the population that thorough measures are in place to ensure a strict control on the situation," reads the release.