Iqaluit declares local state of emergency after COVID-19 community transmission detected

·3 min read
The City of Iqaluit declared a local state of emergency after COVID-19 cases rose to 81 in the city over the weekend.  (Sara Frizzell/CBC News - image credit)
The City of Iqaluit declared a local state of emergency after COVID-19 cases rose to 81 in the city over the weekend. (Sara Frizzell/CBC News - image credit)

The City of Iqaluit declared a local state of emergency Monday afternoon at an emergency city council meeting.

City councillor Kyle Sheppard motioned for the move during the meeting, which was livestreamed on the city's Facebook page.

The move allows the city to unlock some limited authorities under Nunavut's Emergency Measures Act.

Iqaluit's mayor Kenny Bell said the state of emergency empowers the city's bylaw officers to enforce the territorial lockdown rules, which officers will be doing.

Unlike Arviat, which put in a curfew when the hamlet declared a local state of emergency around its COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year, Iqaluit has not made any of its own rules.

Sheppard urged Iqalummiut to follow the territory's public health measures. He called Iqaluit's situation "serious," citing Friday's announcement from the government of Nunavut that there was now community transmission of COVID-19 in Iqaluit.

Eight new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Iqaluit on Monday, bringing the territory's total active case count to 85, with two in Kinngait and two in Rankin Inlet.

There are 81 cases in Iqaluit. The city has been on lockdown since April 15, per the government of Nunavut's public health orders.

The territory ordered all non-essential businesses closed and restaurants to move to take-out only. Anyone who can work from home is expected to do so. The government also made masks mandatory.

Nunavut's chief public health officer says Iqalummiut are only to be socializing with the people they live with, though under the orders residents can have up to five people in their homes in emergency situations.

Iqaluit's deputy mayor Janet Brewster seconded the motion and the vote approving the state of emergency was unanimous.

The state of emergency will officially come into effect at 12 a.m. on May 4.

In an emergency city council meeting, Iqaluit declared a local state of emergency to start at 12. a.m. on May 4.
In an emergency city council meeting, Iqaluit declared a local state of emergency to start at 12. a.m. on May 4. (Sara Frizzell/CBC News)

The Emergency Measures Act requires the appointment of a municipal emergency management coordinator and the city's chief administrative officer, Amy Elgersma, was designated in that role.

States of emergency need to be extended by city council every two weeks, according to the legislation.

Plans for water shortage

Nunavut's Cities, Towns and Villages Act requires a city under a state of emergency to only do work related to the current emergency, according to Elgersma.

In the meeting, she said that the city's water supply did relate to the current emergency.

"The city has a requirement to ensure that the city has an adequate water supply," Elgersma said.

For the past few years, Iqaluit has been supplementing its water supply from its reservoir, Lake Geraldine, with water from the nearby Apex River since the lake doesn't hold enough water for the growing city.

This year, the city put the contract to do the pumping work out for public tender and received three bids. Because of this year's early melt, it wanted to award the contract as soon as possible so the successful company could start work immediately.

Waiting would mean missing the meltwater and potentially requiring the city to seek out a third water source.

The contract was awarded to the lowest bid from Tower Arctic, which was $447,000.

Sheppard moved the awarding of the contract and councillor Romeyn Stevenson seconded the motion. The vote was again unanimous.