Timeline: COVID-19’s first year in Nunavut, Nunavik

How we got to where we are now

It’s been one year since the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. (Illustration by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash)

By Nunatsiaq News

It has been one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Many people in Nunavut and Nunavik were affected, either by contracting the virus, being exposed, or losing jobs. Some lost family members. Across the country, people have spent long stretches of time in isolation, wondering when it will all come to an end.

Here’s a timeline showing how we got to where we are now:

2019

  • Dec. 31: China tells the World Health Organization about mysterious “pneumonia” in the city of Wuhan that infected 41 patients.

2020

  • Jan. 25: Health Canada reports Canada’s first case, a man who had flown to Toronto from Wuhan.
  • March 2: Nunavut Health Minister George Hickes says the risk of catching the novel coronavirus in Nunavut is low and recommends frequent handwashing.
  • March 8: Arctic Winter Games, set to start March 15 in Whitehorse, are cancelled.
  • March 11: The World Health Organization classifies COVID-19 as a pandemic. In Nunavut and Nunavik, a bewildering cascade of closures and lockdowns soon follows.
  • March 13: Schools in Nunavik close, initially for two weeks. Cruise ships are banned from Canada’s Arctic.
  • March 15: Nunavut’s chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson orders the closure of schools and daycares for three weeks. They remain closed for rest of the 2019-20 school year.

    Throughout the pandemic, Dr. Michael Patterson used multiple press briefings keep Nunavummiut informed about the pandemic. (Photo by Dustin Patar/Nunatsiaq News)

  • March 17: Canadian North slashes flights by 50 per cent.
  • March 18: Nunavut Health Minister George Hickes declares a public health emergency. Almost all workplaces in Nunavut are closed.
  • March 24: Public gatherings in Nunavut are banned. Nunavummiut returning to the territory are required to isolate for 14 days at hotels in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Yellowknife or Edmonton.
  • March 28: Nunavik declares its first confirmed case when a person in Salluit tests positive, followed by a second person in Salluit two days later. Kativik Regional Police and the Kativik Regional Government impose a nightly curfew on the region.
  • May 18: A Nunavut resident on out-of-territory medical travel tests positive. Within Nunavut, the case count remains at zero.
  • Oct. 6: Nunavut continues to relax restrictions and allow larger public gatherings.
  • Nov. 6: More than seven months into the pandemic, Nunavut confirms its first positive case — in Sanikiluaq. Multiple cases are reported Nov. 16 in Whale Cove, Rankin Inlet and Arviat.
  • Nov. 21: A surge in Arviat pushes the territory’s count to 109 — 80 in Arviat alone.

    The Kivalliq community of Arviat, population about 3,000, was battered by the pandemic, with a total case count of 337 as of March 9. (Submitted photo)

  • Nov. 28: There are 33 recoveries in one day. Nunavut’s count shrinks for first time since Nov. 6.
  • Dec. 19: Nunavut’s first death is reported — Arviat man Luki Sammurtok, who had been in hospital in Winnipeg. Nunavut also reported a second death, later determined to be in another jurisdiction.
  • Dec. 30: The first Moderna vaccines — 6,000 doses — arrive in Nunavut. GN hopes to receive enough vaccine by end of March 2021 to immunize 75 per cent of territory’s adult population.

2021

  • Jan. 3: Nunavut’s case count drops to zero, generating optimism, parades and celebrations in some communities.
  • Jan. 5: At least five Nunavummiut have died of COVID-19. Only one death is listed in the Nunavut government’s official statistics because of jurisdictional questions.
  • Feb. 25: Nunavik reports two COVID-19-related deaths of people in southern hospitals.
  • March 9: Nunavut health workers give first doses of Moderna vaccine to 9,426 residents and second doses to 5,517.
  • March 10: After 115 days of lockdown, Arviat enjoys easing of restrictions. GN allows schools to partially reopen; some indoor and outdoor gatherings are allowed. On the previous day, a state of emergency imposed by the hamlet is ended.
  • March 11: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declares March 11 a National Day of Observance for COVID-19.
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