Arviat ‘puts foot down’ in bid to control COVID-19 spread

Mayor warns ‘we are going to watch you’ as new lockdown measures take effect

The sun rises in Arviat on Tuesday, where there are still 33 active cases of COVID-19, as of the last government update. A new two-week lockdown and curfew come into place Wednesday in an effort to contain the outbreak. (Photo courtesy of John Main/Twitter)

By Jane George

People in Arviat, the hotspot of Nunavut’s COVID-19 infections, are once again under a restrictive lockdown for two weeks, as of 8 a.m. Wednesday.

That was the message Joe Savikataaq Jr., the mayor of this Kivalliq community of about 3,000, delivered Tuesday afternoon during a two-hour call-in show on local radio.

Savikataaq said hamlet councillors decided to declare a state of emergency in the community and set a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., after holding two emergency meetings this week.

Savikataaq said COVID-19 has been spreading for “too long now” in Arviat, which saw the first of its more than 300 infections last November.

“We have to put our foot down now,” he said during the call-in show, speaking in Inuktitut and English.

Since the virus first surfaced in the territory last fall, Arviat has seen more COVID-19 cases than any place in Nunavut, with 307 out of the 351 infections in the territory.

As of Tuesday, there were still 33 active COVID-19 cases in the community.

During the lockdown, hamlet bylaw officers will patrol around town, the mayor said.

“Everything will be reported to the RCMP,” Savikataaq said, directing his comments to those of “you who gather and smoke,” contrary to public health restrictions.

“We are going to watch you,” he said.

Compliance with the lockdown, which entails staying at home other than for trips to buy food or go to the health centre, is “mandatory,” he said.

“It is for everyone, whether you have been vaccinated or not,” he said.

Savikataaq offered what he called “a glimmer of hope” for the community.

After the two-week lockdown, if the outbreak is contained, residents could see expanded house bubbles, reopening of schools and churches and larger social gatherings.

Callers expressed their fatigue over the restrictions and impacts of COVID-19. Diane Sammurtok, whose husband Luki died in December, wept during her call.

Dr. Michael Patterson, the chief medical officer of Nunavut, also answered questions from Arviammiut and shared what he knew about the active cases in the community.

“We have established links for all of the cases, so currently we would not call this community transmission,” he said.

Residents should stay out of others’ houses, maintain social distancing and wear “a well-fitting mask,” he said.

The new infections are among those who did not get the vaccine, he said.

A COVID-19 vaccination clinic got underway last month in Arviat.

Patterson said the hope is to vaccinate all adults in Arviat. But herd immunity, achieved when a large part of the population is vaccinated, would still remain out of reach, he said.

That’s because more than half of the community are youth, Patterson said, who are not yet approved to receive vaccinations.

“Until we get other vaccines or they get approved for children we are not going to get this herd immunity,” he said.

None of the COVID-19 variants that have shown up in southern Canada have been detected in the community, he said.

On Monday, Patterson suggested that Arviat’s troubles controlling an outbreak of COVID-19 in the community might be due to “fatigue and boredom.”

But that didn’t surface in the calls Patterson received: many had practical questions, such as what a single mother should do with her infant if she needs to go shopping, whether it is safe to ship meat out of the community for sale, and when dental care will return.

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(26) Comments:

  1. Posted by The nickleback on

    What are consequences if I don’t pay fine?

    • Posted by Atatsiak on

      Don’t worry, once you receive your fine you will have a court date listed on that fine. Your choice.


    • Posted by Clear as a Bell on

      There will be no consequences, only chest pounding, sabre rattling, huffing and puffing…

    • Posted by Marie Lynn on

      Probably the same as rent arrears

  2. Posted by Northern Inuit on


    this has been needed for some time.

    boredom is no excuse for letting this deadly disease run rampant for for too long in this Community. time to smarten up and get a handle on this. at least it’s still middle of winter.

    try get this done now before Spring arrives. you can do this Guys and Gals, a little bit of pain and suffering to get through. you got this.

    • Posted by Arviamuit on

      It’s not out of boredom, you don’t know how much we are trying. It’s not from community transmission it’s from overcrowded housing and those with infected person in their house they all use mask inside their house. Think before you judge, you don’t know the experience those families are going through.

      • Posted by Listen to Your Elders on

        I believe that hundreds of adults in Arviat are not vaccinated.
        Lots got the first vaccine and less got the second vaccine.
        It’s not about being tired!
        It’s about thinking that the
        Covid won’t get them
        Complaining about the isolation
        Won’t help
        Stop drinking and smoking after each other.
        If they break any Pademic rules
        Fine them
        Whale and Sani and Rankin did it!
        Watch out for the UK bug
        That’s next!

        • Posted by Think.. on

          Arviat is Arviat don’t need to Compare to other Communities! Rankin miut are so isolated and so is whale and last but not least Sani!! ??

      • Posted by The Old Trapper on

        No. If it was only overcrowded living conditions then from the one original case you would have one complete house infected. You have 300+ peope infected,
        The Department of Health is saying that there is no community transmission but that is very misleading, and mere semantics, The DOH thinks that they can trace who gave the virus to whom, therefore no “community transmission” which they are defining as from an unknown source.
        Now we are fairly certain that there has been asymptotic spread which leads to the DOH assertion of no community spread as improbable if not outright false. Is overcrowding a contributing cause, without a doubt, is it the main reason for the continued spread, no it is not. That would be not wearing a mask, not social distancing, not washing your hands.
        And since many people, especially young people, may be asymptotic treat everyone outside of your immediate family as if they are a zombie plague carrier.

      • Posted by Observer on

        There was a comment from someone living in Arviat that while many people may be trying, some people are doing things like heading to the store to go shopping when they are known to have tested positive and are supposed to be in isolation. That isn’t due to overcrowding. Rankin Inlet has an overcrowding issue as well, and yet it was brought under control there.

  3. Posted by all in on

    Why is it left to the community to implement and enforce its own local state of emergency?

    Isn’t the Public Health Emergency and Public Health Orders in place by the GN enforceable law? Where has the Territory been for 105 days? Why has there been no enforcement of Patterson’s Law? Give me a break, this govenrment is sitting on it’s heels…”urge people not to visit” is the total sum of the GN’s involvement. How embarrassing. I hope main gives them more guff, it’s well deserved.

    • Posted by Paul Murphy on

      Easy answer. There are no laws. Dr Patterson has always believed that people are responsible for their own actions and his orders are recommendations only. If people want to be smart they listen. If they want to be stupid, they won’t listen and they will spread the virus.
      Congratulations to the Hamlet Council for passing a “Law” that forces people stay home, wear masks etc. Long overdue.
      Let’s put the blame where it belongs. residents visiting and not wearing masks.

    • Posted by Arviarmiutaq on

      Our Mayor stated that he asked the Health Authority numerous times for permission to at least use of the biggest Gov’t buildings as a local isolation hub but was denied.

      It’s time for our currents MLAs or anyone who will run for a constituent to get our own Justice System/Policing in their brainstorming for their campaigns, like Nunavik has their own regional police force, aside from the RCMP. To have our own ways of having justice system for the next pandemic

      • Posted by Articrick on

        Just listen to the rules that EVERYBODY has to follow, not only Arviat. Easy

    • Posted by anonymous on

      I wondered that too when the premier could and/or have issued a lock-down 105 days ago. The premier tends to go around in circle when he’s asked questions to answer -who voted him in? He has the authority to request outside help to deal with the virus in Arviat.

  4. Posted by 2 weeks? on

    So… remember this article in about 7-8 weeks once Arviat returns to the exact situation it currently finds itself in. Lessened the restrictions too early last time… it will happen again. The rest of Canada is about to do the same. I think people like this virus or their need to drink/smoke with others is too great.

  5. Posted by Umingmak on

    Three other communities – Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove, and Sanikiluaq – crushed COVID-19 by following the rules and preventing community spread. Arviat continues to spread it months later.

    Simply put, Arviatmiut are not following the rules. Additionally, we know that they had an extremely low vaccination rate – one so bad that the Hamlet had to bribe residents with a “vaccine lottery” and cash prizes (meanwhile Cambridge Bay, for comparison, vaccinated over 600 people. This is approximately 65% of the adult population, based on population and demographic estimates for 2020 by the GN).

    There’s no excuses anymore. The fines aren’t high enough. Perhaps jail time is warranted for those who violate public health measures.

    • Posted by Tuktu on

      If some want to act like kids then they have to be treated like kids, curfews, fines, lottery vaccine.

      Just have to look at the vaccine rates there too, very low and what is the reason behind people not wanting the vaccine?

      • Posted by josywales on

        Are Arviatmiut simple and backwards as previously mentioned in another story that they cannot follow simple instructions? Proberly not, but wonder why they are having such a hard time while other Nunavut communities have nipped their Covdid-19 in their communities to date.

        • Posted by The Old Trapper on

          It’s probably because this virus is tough to eradicate.
          We all know that masks, social distancing, hand washing should all be done, but not everyone does, and not all the time.
          If everyone who had the virus had a big red “C” on their forehead it would be easier to tell who to avoid. The problem is too many people are asymptomatic, that is they show no symptoms and may feel just fine, or maybe just a bit run down.
          The only way to really contain an outbreak is to isolate, test, quarantine, trace, all while everyone follows the rules to prevent the virus from spreading undetected.
          Again look at New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, Taiwan, that shows you how to not only reduce coronavirus but to eradicate it within your borders.

    • Posted by ilisapirjuaq on

      It is upsetting to hear so many negative comments about Arviat. As a community we have been working hard to contain the virus and we will continue to do so. In contrast to the three other Nunavut communities which had covic-19 cases, by the time covid-19 was confirmed in Arviat, it had spread widely and asymptomatically within the community. In the other three communities the infected people could be confined to a few houses until all those residents tested negative so Covid-19 did not spread throughout the communities. Then, in January we thought we were free of the virus, and it was only because follow-up testing continued that it was discovered that the virus is still here. Fortunately it was discovered before it could spread widely throughout the community again. We have only seen single digit increases per day in January and February compared to double digit increases of covid-19 cases in November and December. Over half of Arviat’s population is under 18 and not eligible to be vaccinated yet, and also most likely to be infected without showing any symptoms – but able to spread the virus! Our children have not been able to go to school for almost 4 months now. It is challenging to keep children engaged and positive when they can’t see their friends or release their physical energy through sports or on the playground. Despite this, there are many families in Arviat who have lots of children but who have had no covid-19. MOST ARVIAMMIUT HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING THE RULES AND RESTRICTIONS CONSISTENTLY AND THEY DESERVE A LOT OF RESPECT AND CREDIT FOR THEIR EFFORTS. As it has everywhere, the covid-19 virus has exposed the many gaps in the health and social services available in Arviat, Nunavut, and Canada, especially for people living in poverty and those with mental health challenges. They need our prayers, compassion, and support, as well as stricter enforcement of the pandemic rules and restrictions. We can all thank the GN for all the precautions they have taken during this past year that Arviat has been the only Nunavut community to have to deal with widespread Covid-19. We in Arviat are praying that no other Nunavut community has to deal with what we are going through. Please continue to be vigilant and follow the guidelines in your community, and get vaccinated when you have the opportunity, and please continue to give Arviat your prayers and support,

  6. Posted by Tired of it on

    We should be ashamed of ourselves. Should be mandatory jail time for people breaking the laws.

  7. Posted by Eskimo boy 819 on

    Hey!.. Joe.. You should put $5000 this time for the vaccine lottery. I think you need more vaccines Joe.?

    • Posted by Embarrassed on

      It’s embarrassing so many are not taking the vaccine out of ignorance, I’ve got my second dose it was good and I am fine. We shouldn’t need a lottery to get more people vaccinated, people should be lining up to get.

  8. Posted by Name withheld on

    I’m glad to hear that Hamlet of Arviat has put their foot down. They have been nice too long to those that don’t want to stay inside and not go visiting. The gamblers and meeting in shacks to smoke weed are the ones spreading it, while majority of Arviatmiut are paying the price. So please instead of assuming all of Arviat isn’t listening, get your facts first especially if you do not live in Arviat.

  9. Posted by Amaruq on

    Think its time, the ppl of Arviat be sent COVID-19 Gowns, Masks, Rubber Gloves, Cover for Boot to be fully covered to go outside? I pray this long overdue issue will end as advised before: There Really Is Light At End Of The Tunnel!


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