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”
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.