First case of Omicron subvariant BA.2 detected in Iqaluit

Hospitalization tally at 23 since start of Omicron wave

Dr. Michael Patterson gives an update on the COVID-19 situation in Nunavut in February. He has essentially been alone at the helm of public health since October. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By Mélanie Ritchot

A new mutation of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has made a first appearance in Nunavut, with testing from one case of the virus in Iqaluit showing evidence of the BA.2 subvariant.

“Although this strain spreads more easily than Omicron, it does not appear to be any more likely to cause serious infection,” Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said at a COVID-19 update on Tuesday.

It was the first time he appeared at one of the government’s weekly updates since he went into self-isolation on Feb. 10, following exposure to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. Patterson said then he had tested negative but would be in isolation until Feb. 17 as a precaution.

He said there is no evidence of BA.2, a subvariant of Omicron, spreading in Iqaluit so far.

The number of hospitalized cases of COVID-19 reported since the start of the current wave, which began in December, went from 22 to 23 on Tuesday, but Patterson said he did not know how many people are currently hospitalized.

With Paxlovid, a drug to treat COVID-19 now distributed to all communities, Patterson said those who have been prescribed the medicine have been responding well.

With recoveries being logged on Tuesday, Nunavut’s total case count dropped to 310, with a total of 1,561 recoveries recorded.

Iqaluit has the most cases in the territory, with 85, which Patterson attributed to more travellers coming from the south.

He also said when residents from other communities get COVID-19 while in Iqaluit for medical travel, those cases get added to the capital city’s case count.

Case counts in many communities went down on Tuesday.

In Cambridge Bay, there were three cases, down from 15 on Monday.

There are 21 communities with at least one active case, but the majority of those have fewer than 10 cases.

Here are Nunavut’s 310 cases by community:

  • Arctic Bay — 1
  • Arviat — 4
  • Baker Lake — 5
  • Cambridge Bay — 3
  • Coral Harbour — 4
  • Clyde River — 2
  • Gjoa Haven — 10
  • Igloolik — 25
  • Iqaluit — 85
  • Kinngait — 4
  • Kugaaruk — 26
  • Kugluktuk — 1
  • Naujaat — 8
  • Pangnirtung — 19
  • Pond Inlet — 24
  • Qikiqtarjuaq — 3
  • Rankin Inlet — 40
  • Resolute Bay — 4
  • Sanikiluaq — 3
  • Sanirajak — 18
  • Taloyoak — 21

Patterson has said the daily case count doesn’t reflect the actual COVID-19 situation in the territory as testing and contact tracing are limited.

Premier P.J. Akeeagok announced the Government of Nunavut will be taking a new approach to “living with” COVID-19 in the territory and will follow other jurisdictions in Canada and globally to ease restrictions gradually over the coming weeks.

Patterson, Akeeagok and some territorial ministers are scheduled to give another COVID-19 update on March 1 at 11:00 a.m., which can be streamed on the legislative assembly’s website.

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Vaxed on

    If schools can open to 100% up to 30 kids in a class. Then everything else should open up to the same capacity. No more 25% bs. One customer for taxi, yet school busses seat 2 kids per row.
    We are ready to get back to normal. Masking should be recommend not mandatory. Cloth masks do not prevent COVID. The % is low

    • Posted by JOHNNY on

      Humanity has to learn to leave with covid , not try to wait it out.

      • Posted by John K on

        And living with COVID doesn’t mean returning to our old normal.

        When the variables in the equation change so does the answer. No matter how loud we screech.

        • Posted by Pandemonic Prophet on

          And what does “not returning to our old normal mean”?

          I will take the old normal over cryptic apocalyptic mumblings any day.

          You want to impose your will on society, make your case. But no more safetyism or manipulation of the precautionary principle (which somehow never applies to the economic and social impacts of all these measures).

          • Posted by John K on

            I’m fine letting anything that might happen just run its course.

            My people are safe.

  2. Posted by Re-infection on

    If we contracted the first variant, can we be infected with the second?

    • Posted by John K on


      • Posted by But on

        But we may have a natural immune protection.

      • Posted by Pandemonic Prophet on

        Of course you can. But the risk of serious illness, hospitalization or death is drastically reduced because you will have broad, adaptive immunity on top of any vaccine immunity you may have.

        Stop fear-mongering.

  3. Posted by Richard Smith on

    Enough of the fear mongering!
    I had the covid omicron variant and it was about equal to the common cold for a few days

    • Posted by Nixil on

      You’re fine, so everyone else should shut up, right?

      Good grief.

      I’m not saying you’re wrong about omicron being mild for most people, but your argument is selfish and lousy. If you are hoping to change peoples’ opinions, your approach won’t work.

      • Posted by Pandemonic Prophet on

        He just asked for the fear mongering to stop. So talking is good, fear mongering is not good.

        With that being said, it would be more helpful if he shared his vaccine status, age and health. Obviously Omicron can still be dangerous for people who are at risk, particularly if they aren’t vaccinated.

  4. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    The Schools are open and keeping safe as can be which is fine. we are open at work and being careful like we should. travel is not recommended but if we need to for work yes, has to be done. that’s fine.

    possible holiday this spring, summer or fall which we are looking forward to. not jumping the gun but being careful, my Family is vaccinated and will go from there.

    but the GN Ledge is not open? they are postponing sitting because they are concerned about the covid variant.

    wait what? seriously. you are joking right?

    it might save us the embarrassment of listening to some of these pander on. maybe our minister of education can take a speaking with confidence course the GN provides for Employees.

    maybe the king and saviour of netilik should sit in too, not that he needs confidence but maybe some humility.


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