Nunavut confirms 8 new COVID-19 cases Monday, territory-wide restriction period to start Wednesday

·4 min read
Nunavut confirms 8 new COVID-19 cases Monday, territory-wide restriction period to start Wednesday
Nunavut confirms 8 new COVID-19 cases Monday, territory-wide restriction period to start Wednesday

The government of Nunavut announced eight more cases of COVID-19 in the territory on Monday, bringing the new total to 26 since the first confirmed case was identified on Nov. 6.

It comes after 14 cases were reported over the weekend.

Six of the new cases on Monday were in Arviat and two were in Rankin Inlet.

Nunavut Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson, Premier Joe Savikataaq and Lorne Kusugak, minister of health, gave an update on the situation on Monday.

One person who contracted the virus was medevaced to Winnipeg, while the rest are recovering at home, Patterson said.

Nunavut will enter a mandatory, territory-wide restriction period for two weeks, starting Wednesday, as a response, Patterson said. The move was made to limit the spread of the virus. All non-essential services, businesses and organizations will be required to close and wherever possible, switch to work from home, according to a news release.

Masks will now be strongly recommended in public spaces and when physical distance can't be maintained.

In the Kivalliq region, and Sanikiluaq, masks will remain mandatory.

The territory said the closures include the suspension of all sporting activities and events. All restaurants are to serve takeout only, and bars will be closed. Personal services, like hair salons and massage therapy centres, must close.

All health centres and the Qikiqtani General Hospital are closed except for emergency services. Visiting at long-term care centres is also suspended for the two weeks.

Stopping transmission 'vital'

"I know this will be hard. We do not want to be back to the restrictions we had in the spring, but for the health and safety of all Nunavummiut, this is necessary," said Savikataaq.

"Think of it as [a] circuit breaker, a chance to reset. No one is above the rules here. Let's make this clear, so there's no misunderstanding. Do not visit, do not socialize outside your household."

Patterson said as cases rise in the communities, it is "vital" that the territory looks at ways to stop potential transmission of the virus.

"Limiting any potential exposure to the virus is our best possible defence in Nunavut," Patterson said in a statement.

The measures will be re-evaluated on Dec. 2. Individuals how don't follow the measures could face fines of $575, while organizations could face fines of more than $2,000, Patterson said.

The territory said it "strongly advises" against non-essential travel. All schools will close and move to remote learning. Child-care centres will be closed to all but essential workers. Outdoor gatherings over five people are now banned and indoor gatherings are restricted to five people in addition to household members. That means people can bring in a trades person if their home needs repairs, for example, Patterson said. People are not to have a "small party."

Watch the government update here:

Patterson said contact tracing in Arviat is going "well," with the "majority" of people participating. The territory has also been looking for ways to isolate potential contacts who are experiencing homelessness.

Kusugak, the health minister, said that people should not worry about how the coronavirus got into the territory.

"We all knew at some point COVID-19 would hit Nunavut. Now that it's here, it's up to us to help stop the spread," he said.

"Now is not the time for every one in Nunavut to become an investigator."

On Sunday, Arviat, Nunavut, reported nine new cases, just two days after the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the hamlet. Patterson confirmed Monday that there has been community transmission, and said it could take one to two weeks to see if the measures previously put in place in the community will have had an impact. He said some of the spread may have been from people who left the community before being identified as having the virus.

A second case in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, was also reported Sunday and is possibly "linked to Arviat," a release from the chief public health officer stated.

In both Rankin Inlet and Sanikiluaq, the community where the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Nunavut, the territory said there is no trace of community transmission, which is "more likely to occur when there are no clear links that trace how somebody became infected."

The territory also said Sunday that contact tracing is still underway in all three communities, with the hopes of tracing and containing the virus.

The government is reminding Nunavummiut to "strictly follow" current public health measures which include limiting your contacts, frequent hand washing, keeping physical distance whenever possible and staying home if you feel sick.