Risk of catching COVID-19 in Nunavik 'highest it has ever been,' say health officials

·3 min read
Kuujjuaq, seen from the air in July, is one of three communities in Nunavik on the red alert level for COVID-19, which means there is community transmission. All non-essential services in the three communities are closed until further notice. (Juanita Taylor/CBC - image credit)
Kuujjuaq, seen from the air in July, is one of three communities in Nunavik on the red alert level for COVID-19, which means there is community transmission. All non-essential services in the three communities are closed until further notice. (Juanita Taylor/CBC - image credit)

Nunavik health officials are reporting 217 active COVID-19 cases in the northern Quebec region Thursday.

"The risk is now at the highest it has ever been of catching COVID-19 everywhere in Nunavik," read a news release from the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS).

"Everyone is strongly encouraged to be extra careful and get tested as they show any symptom of COVID-19," it stated.

Marie Rochette, the director of public health for the NRBHSS, said the region has had 302 cases in the last four weeks, compared to 81 before that, since the start of the pandemic.

She said despite the fact public health measures were in place in the region to help detect COVID-19 quickly, someone, likely in September, came into the region and wasn't detected as having COVID-19 before spreading it to others.

Current measures

Masks are mandatory in all indoor public spaces in every community in the region, regardless of people's vaccination status.

Three of the region's 14 communities — Kuujjuaq, Salluit and Kangirsuk — are on red alert level.

That means all non-essential public places, including schools, community centres and churches, are closed until further notice. Essential services including grocery stores, women's shelters and clinics remain open.

People can't visit each other, nor can they host visitors, including family members they don't live with, according to the health board.

Only essential travel is allowed. At airports, only travellers are allowed inside the terminal building.

Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services website
Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services website

Salluit is the community with the most active cases Thursday, with 143. There is a curfew in place in the community from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

There are 57 active cases in Kangirsuk, where there is a curfew from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

There are 11 cases in Kuujjuaq.

All scheduled trips to Ullivik — a lodging facility in Dorval, Que, just outside Montreal, for Inuit who travel south for medical appointments — and other non-critical appointments in the South, are cancelled until further notice.

Orange alert level

The region's 11 other communities are on the orange alert level, and will remain there until at least Nov. 17, the health board said.

The communities include Kangiqsujuaq where there are four cases, and Ivujivik where there is one.

Schools and daycares are open while bars are not. Restaurants can have two adults and their children form the same household at a table. Indoor gatherings are limited to 25 while outdoor ones can have up to 250 people, as can churches.

No impact on hospitals, yet

Rochette said that COVID-19 hasn't had much of an effect on the region's health centres, located in Kuujjuaq and Puvirnituq, or community health centres.

"So far, that's not a big issue," she said. "The hospitals are not overwhelmed."

She said she thinks one of the reasons is because the population in the region is quite young.

"But it's something that we are monitoring very closely because we know that the capacity is quite limited in the region."

She said she would like to see a vaccination rate around 85 per cent in the region.

She said the rate now stands at around 60 per cent but that there are big differences between the 14 communities, with one at 84 per cent and another at only 42 per cent.

"When you have some communities with 40 to 47 per cent of people eligible who received the two doses, it means that there are still a lot of people who are susceptible to the infection," she said.

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