Nunavut announces territory’s first COVID-19 case

“We ask residents of Sanikiluaq to remain at home at this time and limit contact with other residents including family members not residing in the same household”

Sanikiluaq residents are being asked to stay at home and limit contact with each other, following the confirmation of Nunavut’s first case of COVID-19 in the community. (File photo)

By Nunatsiaq News

Nunavut’s first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Sanikiluaq, the territory’s chief public health officer announced today.

“We have initiated contact tracing in the community and our rapid response team is on standby to help manage the situation should it become necessary,” Dr. Michael Patterson said during a news conference on Friday, Nov. 6.

That rapid response team hasn’t yet been deployed to the community because there is already extra health staff on the ground preparing to move into the new health centre, said Patterson.

“If the contact tracing work is too big, or there are more cases in the next day or two, then we may send them in to help out,” said Patterson.

Asked how long he expected contact tracing to take, Patterson said it depends on how many individuals need to be interviewed.

To help with this process, Patterson asked that residents of Sanikiluaq remain at home at this time and limit contact with other residents including family members not residing in the same household.

“It is important that health measures are followed by everyone and that we all do our part to quickly contain a potential spread in the community,” he said.

The individual has only showed mild symptoms and was swabbed earlier this week, said Patterson.

Unlike other COVID-19 tests in the territory, this swab was sent directly to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg because of Sanikiluaq’s geographical location in southern Hudson Bay.

For privacy reasons, Patterson would not divulge any additional details about the individual.

All travel to and from the Belcher Islands, including Sanikiluaq, is restricted, except for cargo and emergency travel.

Hunters may leave the community but cannot travel to another populated area, Patterson said, adding that hunters who do leave the community should monitor themselves for symptoms and return home if any develop.

Only emergency services are to remain open, with grocery stores following reduced hours.

Businesses that do remain open must limit the number of shoppers to 10 at a time. Shoppers must remain two metres apart and wear masks.

According to Patterson, some non-medical masks were recently delivered to the community.

All federal, territorial and municipal government offices in Sanikiluaq must close to all but essential work.

All public gatherings are restricted to five people and there should be no gatherings in homes.

All schools in Sanikiluaq, including Nunavut Arctic College, are also closed.

According to Education Minister David Joanasie, an initial shipment of laptops and iPads will be sent to Sanikiluaq on Nov. 10.

Joanasie also said that a recently announced online learning platform will be set up for the teachers to use soon.

“We ask for patience from parents and the community as we adjust,” said Joanasie.

Once contact tracing is complete and the Department of Health has located all individuals potentially exposed to the virus and has placed them in under isolation, they can begin to ease the current restrictions, said Patterson.

This could happen in as little as a couple of days, he said.

Sanikiluaq residents currently in an isolation hub in southern Canada, including those scheduled to arrive back in the community on Sunday, will need to wait before being able to return.

“We need to identify whether or not there’s transmission in the community before we let more people come home and expose them to risk,” said Patterson.

Patterson, Health Minister George Hickes and Premier Joe Savikataaq all said that all Nunavummiut should continue to practise social distancing, hand washing and should refrain from going out if feeling unwell.

“Please remember that a confirmed case is not a reason to panic. We’ve prepared for this and are responding,” said Savikataaq.

“I wish all the best for the patient and the people of Sanikiluaq.”

This positive case does not currently affect other communities in the territory or the travel bubbles established with the Northwest Territories and Churchill, Manitoba.

Anyone who has reason to believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 is asked to call the COVID hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., or notify their community health centre right away and immediately self-isolate at home for 14 days. “Please do not go to the health centre in person,” the government’s news release states.

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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by okay on

    Everything will be fine. Please respect the virus. The government and the public safety guy have to stop driving up the fear in the communities and in Nunavut. I am high risk so I have to be careful, but I think the fear and anxiety being generated by Hicks and Patterson is even more detrimental to my health even if I survived covid. Be safe, respect yourself and others.

    • Posted by Keith on

      If you want to make sure the virus stays under control in Nunavut, you do exactly what they’re doing right now. New Zealand and other countries which have successfully controlled it have done the same thing. It’s not “driving up fear”.

      • Posted by Tobacco on

        Those are the words of Honourable Tagak Curley, Nunavut Minister of Health and Social Services in 2011:

        “Tobacco use was not traditionally part of Inuit society, but today its use in Nunavut is of EPIDEMIC
        proportions. Smoking is a root cause of many of the health problems affecting Nunavummiut. Far
        too many Nunavummiut have become sick, disabled, or have died prematurely as a result of
        tobacco use. We cannot afford to lose more of our people to preventable death and disease.
        Nunavummiut’s mass addiction to tobacco must be recognized and responded to as an urgent
        public health concern.”

        Dr Patterson, Honourable George Hickes, please lock down Nunavut to all import of southern tobacco and marijuana products because we are in an epidemic.

  2. Posted by TAJ on

    Lots of questions.
    1- where was this person to be able to come in contact with the virus?
    2- if he/she was out of the territory were they not quarantined?
    3- how was it not caught before they returned?
    4- has this person been thru any other Nunavut communities recently?

  3. Posted by Jeena Litu on

    Fear factor game presses play. Dont play this game. More opiod suicides from mental health from pandemic protocols in canada than from virus itsself. Sinister goals at best!

  4. Posted by Community Travel on

    Iqaluit residents recently travelled there and vice versa. I hope that they will self-isolate.
    Stop the spreaders!

  5. Posted by member on

    it is known the patience(s) quaranteeing before heading home don’t even get tested for the virus all throughout the so called isolation they go thru throughout the whole 2wk. No wonder the virus has arrived. and i’m surprised that it had not come to nunavut territory any sooner.

  6. Posted by Artie on

    The isolation hotel protocol is flawed. The travel to Nunavut after 14 day iso hotel stay is seriously! flawed. Nunavut has been lucky so far. But with the massive surge of positive covid-19 cases in southern Canada & in the world right now… Nunavummiut need to prepare 🙏🙏

  7. Posted by Jack Klumpus on

    I’ve noticed that a good deal of complacency has set in lately. People followed the rules for a while (a week or two!) in the beginning, but now I see people ignoring social distancing, hugging and kissing their relatives outside the Co-Op, etc. A few people wear masks but take them off to kiss their extended family members who don’t live with them. We’ve been lulled into a false sense of security that I hope will now end with this news.

  8. Posted by Get serious Sanikiluaq on

    Many in Sanikiluaq are panicked and asking where can I get a mask? Why isn’t the health centre giving out masks, etc. Nunavut has been very lucky to not have a positive case in a community until now.
    * Sanikiluaq: you’ve had 7+ months to make sure that you each got your self a mask –hopefully a coupe extras too so that they can be washed often.
    * Far too many people didn’t bother –didn’t take “personal responsibility” and just assumed that the government would just give them everything. There’s been plenty of time for each household to make sure that there are enough mask for each person, etc. *You’re not helpless*
    The GN has repeatedly posted info about masks and how to make them. No one needs to spend 5-10-15 dollars to buy a mask. Make your own from things that you already have in your house. Look for instructions online for sew and no-sew masks. 1 used cotton t-shirt can be cut up following a pattern and easily be made into a ½ dozen masks. There are probably 75+ sewing machines in the community– sewing a 2-3 layer mask takes little time. There are many very skilled sewers in the community. Use left over scraps of fabric.

    And stop going visiting at homes of family and friends: posting selfies of yourself over at your relatives houses. Get real. This isn’t a joke. Follow the instructions from the GN.
    Back in March & April a whole lot of people refused to follow guidelines: there was more socializing going on than ever.
    This is serious.

    GN are you aware that there is only 1 working sewage truck for all of Sanikiluaq –last night that truck went off the road and was laying sideways in a snow-pile. (Nunatsiaq see if you can get a photo of the truck from last night)

    -When sewage tanks are full, the water shuts off. People are supposed to engage in frequent hand washing and clean high-touch surfaces frequently. Having running water os more important that ever. Overcrowded homes are going hours , half days and whole days with no running water. So nice of Trudeau to have address the realities of Indigenous peoples living in small & remote communities over the last few years.

    • Posted by Go on the radio on

      You should go on the local radio with this. If you know so much then you should know only a small fraction of the residents can go online. Similarly, a good majority cannot understand the mumbo jumbo you’re spewing out. Yes they can read in English but it’s not at the level your tone speaks.
      So I urge you: if you really care about Sanikiluaq residents then go on their local radio.

  9. Posted by Residents of Sanikiluaq on

    Here’s what I think, the person may have travelled from Winnipeg, he or she did their self isolation for 2 weeks.

    Here’s the problem. People isolating in Winnipeg, complain a lot, as if they are not being fed well, snacks and beverages provided, I’ve seen it I’ve been there and seem people are picky so they tend to order fast food, I think that’s where it came from, a lot of people order from skip the dishes. That’s not all
    There are people who are not isolating who go to isolation hubs and sell alcohol, weed or other stuff that people want, those people need to stay away from the hubs IF they are not doing the isolation program.
    So those who are blaming the hotel employees, think again
    A lot of people allow people who are not isolating to go to the hub and get what they want.

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