Nunavut to ease public health measures in Arviat and Whale Cove starting Tuesday

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Nunavut's chief public health officer is easing public health measures beginning Tuesday in Arviat and Whale Cove after no new COVID-19 cases have been reported in either community over the past two weeks.

Dr. Michael Patterson said in a Monday news release that travel restrictions will be lifted, although he continues to recommend against non-essential travel.

"As well, government offices, most private businesses and schools may reopen," he said in the release.

The limit on indoor gathering is being increased to 10 people in addition to household members, and outdoor gathering limits will increase to 50 people, the news release said.

Patterson said that while this is good news, it will take until the end of the month to declare the outbreak over.

Nunavut didn't report its first case of COVID-19 until Nov. 6. Afterward, however, the disease spread rapidly in four communities: Arviat, Whale Cove, Sanikiluaq and Rankin Inlet. Outbreaks were declared in all four communities.

A two-week, territory-wide lockdown took place in mid-November. Restrictions were eased on Nov. 30 across the territory, except in Arviat, where the overwhelming majority of Nunavut's COVID-19 cases have taken place.

As of Monday, there are no active cases of COVID-19 in the territory. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 266 cases in Nunavut, and 265 people have recovered. One person has died.

The outbreak in Sanikiluaq was declared officially over on Dec. 18, 28 days after the last case had recovered in the community. It takes 28 days from the time of the last recovered case to declare an end to an outbreak, Patterson has said.

Vaccinations taking place

On Dec. 30, Nunavut received a shipment of 6,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

The territory started administering them on Jan. 6, when about 28 elders at the Iqaluit Elders' Home received the vaccine.

Patterson said community vaccination clinics took place Monday in Igloolik and Gjoa Haven, and will start in Arviat and Cambridge Bay on Jan. 14.

"I encourage all eligible Nunavummiut 18 or older to get vaccinated," he said. "It is the best protection available against COVID-19."