Nunavik declares its first confirmed COVID-19 infection in Salluit
A nightly curfew and strict travel restrictions are now in effect across Nunavik
Updated, March 29, 4 p.m.
Nunavimmiut learned on Saturday evening that the region’s first case of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the Hudson Strait community of Salluit.
That was followed by the news on Sunday afternoon that the entire region would be under a nightly curfew, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The Kativik Regional Police and the Kativik Regional Government said these curfews are preventive measures “aimed at protecting all Nunavimmiut from the potential spread of the virus.”
At about 8 p.m. on March 28, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services first said in a release that it had received confirmation “that there is a positive case in the region.”
The infected person in Salluit has been in isolation since completing a COVID-19 test and will remain in isolation until further notice and as “instructed by a doctor,” the health board said.
That individual, who is currently sharing a house with others, is isolated in a “specific room,” and “hygiene measures are being strictly applied,” the release said.
A public health team has been contacting people in the community of about 1,600 who could have been in close contact with the infected person.
“A strict protocol is unfolding,” said the health board, which has had a pandemic plan in place since 2006, when the H5N1 bird flu virus was a concern.
Close contacts would have been in contact with the infected person for at least 15 minutes at a distance of two metres or less, the health board said.
Some in Salluit are already in quarantine.
“For those in isolation, they are aware of all the precautions they need to follow. We remind people to help them follow the recommendations and be supportive,” the health board said in its release.
“Rest assured that actions are in place and more will come.”
At the same time, the KRPF and the KRG said in a joint release on Saturday that a curfew would be in effect in Salluit from 9 p.m. until 6 p.m. every day, “until further notice.”
As well, the police and regional government said that all flights in and out of the community had been cancelled and that its airport would remain closed to all traffic except for “extreme exceptions.”
Local leaders asked everyone to avoid “stigmatizing those who fall victim to the coronavirus,” the joint release said.
Prior to the Nunavik-wide curfew being ordered
The communities of Ivujivik, Aupaluk and Kuujjuaraapik had all been placed under curfews before the Nunavik-wide curfew was put into effect.
The police said they would enforce the curfew “with the support of the mayors of the Northern Villages.”
The news of the first confirmed case in Nunavik followed Quebec’s announcement earlier on Saturday that the province planned to restrict travel in eight regions, including Nunavik, as of 4 p.m.
All non-essential travel between those regions is now prohibited, although exceptions will be made for humanitarian reasons, Quebec said.
Speaking about these measures, Quebec Premier François Legault said on Sunday during his daily news conference that “we don’t want it to spread in Nunavik.”
Two weeks ago Nunavik’s regional airline stepped up measures to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading, and then last week, only days ahead of the announcement of the first confirmed COVID-19 case, the region introduced new mandatory screening for air travellers.
A joint release from the health board and the KRG also said on March 24 that only individuals working in essential services such as police officers, health care workers, maintenance crews and others, as identified by the KRG and the KRPF, would be allowed to travel on flights in Nunavik.
Regular scheduled cargo planes and shipment of supplies to all the communities, including medical equipment, would continue, as would travel for medical appointments.
A week ago, the Northwest Territories announced its first case of the new coronavirus and closed its borders to most travellers.
As of March 28, Nunavut still had no confirmed cases of COVID-19.
But Quebec had nearly 2,500 confirmed cases.
To avoid infection with COVID-19, Nunavik’s health board said all Nunavummiut should:
• Wash their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.
• Keep a distance of two metres from each other.
• Stay at home as much as possible.
• Avoid visiting friends and family members in close spaces “at all cost.”
The health board is now asking Nunavimmiut not to go to their local health clinics if they think they’re infected with COVID-19 and show symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath.
Instead, they should call the Info-Health line at 1-888-662-7482 from Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.