Kinngait COVID-19 cases linked to Iqaluit outbreak
‘This demonstrates that there is increased risk of introducing COVID-19 to other communities in the Baffin region,’ says Patterson
The two cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Kinngait on Monday night have now been linked to the outbreak in Iqaluit, says Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson.
The announcement, made during a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, corrects what was initially reported on Monday night, that the cases were not linked.
“This demonstrates that there is increased risk of introducing COVID-19 to other communities in the Baffin region,” said Patterson.
All travel in and out of Kinngait, including by land, is now restricted. Those seeking to return to, or leave, the community, can request permission to do so by email.
Non-essential travel in the territory continues to be highly discouraged.
Premier Joe Savikataaq said the government has received some requests to close airports and restrict air all travel in and out of some communities but he said “this is not a practical solution.”
“There are always reasons why being connected is necessary: essential goods and services, emergency safety situations, health emergencies and more,” he said.
Following the cases in Kinngait, other public health orders have been put in place across the Qikiqtaaluk region. Masks are now mandatory, indoor gatherings are limited to a household and up to five people for emergency purposes only, outdoor gatherings are limited to five people, all school classes will be taught remotely and daycares must close.
Masks are also now mandatory in Rankin Inlet.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and will alter measures in other communities, if it becomes necessary,” said Patterson.
In addition to the two cases reported in Kinngait, three additional cases were reported in Iqaluit on Tuesday, bringing the territorial total to 33.
Although Patterson says that the territory is equipped to handle the two simultaneous outbreaks, adding a third could begin to stretch resources.
As of the press conference, Patterson said that contact tracing had identified seven individuals in Kinngait who may have been exposed to the virus.
Patterson said he was unable to provide details for how many people in Iqaluit had been identified as exposure risks.
The territory’s capital city became the epicentre of a new outbreak last week, just as Arviat emerged from a months-long outbreak, which had resulted in 339 cases and one death.
Since the Iqaluit outbreak’s initial case was discovered, public health officials have been undergoing contact tracing and testing people with symptoms of COVID-19 in the city.
Aside from the original positive case, officials have been able to determine the source of every infection so far, meaning that although the number of cases are increasing, the spread is not considered community transmission.
It hasn’t been determined whether that original case was caught in the territory or outside, and Patterson said he expects to know later this week whether it is a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Nunavut’s vaccination program is ongoing as well, with 11,282 Nunavummiut fully inoculated against COVID-19.
In Kinngait, 366 adults have received the first dose of the vaccine and 267 have been fully vaccinated.
Any resident of Nunavut who thinks they may have been exposed to COVID-19 is asked to call a hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., eastern time.
Health Minister Lorne Kusugak also reminded Nunavummiut who are struggling, feeling alone, disconnected or anxious to reach out to friends or family.
Helplines are also available and can be reached toll-free at 1-800-265-3333 or 1-866-804-2782.
For updated information and resources on COVID-19 visit the Government of Nunavut’s website.
Government COVID updates will continue this week on Wednesday and Friday at 11 a.m. eastern time.