Three Nunavut communities ask visitors to stay away due to COVID-19 concerns

“This response is based on our concern for the health of the community,” says Cambridge Bay mayor

Cambridge Bay, Coral Harbour and Igloolik are asking non-essential visitors to stay away to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. (Photo by Jane George)

By Jane George

(Updated on Friday, March 13 at 5:08 p.m.)

Three Nunavut communities say they want visitors to stay away to help keep them safe from the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

The Hamlet of Coral Harbour, which has a population of about 900, put out the message on Thursday, March 12, that they don’t want any visitors from outside the community coming to town, especially from the south, to lessen the dangers of the COVID-19 infection.

“So if your organization is expecting people/group this month or in the next few weeks, please ask them to cancel or postpone,” said SAO Leonie Pameolik in a Facebook posting.

The Hamlet of Cambridge Bay also said on March 12 that it has cancelled all staff travel from Cambridge Bay and would like all those planning to travel to the western Nunavut hub to rethink their own plans to visit.

The hamlet plans to reassess all activities that involve “significant” gatherings of people on a case-by-case basis.

“This response is based on our concern for the health of the community and particularly the Elders and those with compromised immune systems, who are most at risk in the event of infection,” said Mayor Pamela Gross in a public announcement.

Gross also asked those planning to visit the community of about 1,800 for “business or pleasure” to support the municipality by reconsidering their travel arrangements.

As an alternative, think about a teleconference or video-conference, she said.

Cambridge Bay is a hub for the western Nunavut, as well as the site of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, which receives many visiting delegations and researchers.

At least one researcher from Ottawa changed her plans to head north.

The Hamlet of Igloolik is also asking all non-essential visitors to stay out for the time being.

Mayor Merlyn Recinos said late Friday afternoon that he had just come from an emergency hamlet meeting, where this was decided.

Essential visitors include members of the RCMP, health care workers or school teachers, Recinos said.

But researchers and people visiting for personal reasons are asked to stay away for now.

Recinos said he didn’t know how this would be enforced, but suggested they could have someone screening visitors at the airport.

While the Government of Nunavut has not advised a halt on travel to and from the territory, Greenland’s prime minister, Kim Kielsen, said on March 12 at a news conference that residents of Greenland should not to travel unless it’s necessary.

Greenland’s four political parties, meanwhile, called for a total shutdown of travel and activity on the island, although there are no positive cases of COVID-19 yet.

(with files from Meagan Deuling)

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Oscar on

    I doubt that residents of the 2 communities’ have been consulted on this ‘do not visit’ directive. And when COVID-19 hits your communities’ will you still not want outside visitors with medical aid & relief. You need a better medical response plan than that Mayor Gross.

    • Posted by Not A Directive on

      Except that it is not a ‘directive’. It is an ask, and nothing more than that.

      People will ignore or follow as they want.

      • Posted by Jenn on

        Not sure why this story is even a news item?? Every town, city, hamlet, country in the world does not want anyone who is possibly infected with COVID-19 visiting their locale. Guess this hamlet’s mayor felt compelled to state it for the record. I would much rather read about the Mayor’s preemptive emergency plan vs. this kneejerk reactionary request.

  2. Posted by Knee Jerk Reactions Don’t Help on

    Unless the Hamlet can stop all the personal, business and medical travel of its residents, I cannot see how this action will do anything for the community…..

  3. Posted by Voluntary Responsibility on

    Volunteering to not take a chance on spreading the virus to vulnerable communities is a good thing. Waiting for an enforced travel ban may be too late. Nobody is refusing aid, just asking for common sense and being proactive.

  4. Posted by Uvaali on

    Cambridge Bay has a lot of visitors from far-away places.
    Good request Ms. Mayor.

    • Posted by Jeremy on

      Not a good request at all. Pretty f’n! weak. If I was a residenf of CB I wd be organizing my own group asap & preparing a serious emergency preparedness & reaction plan. NU communities’ waiting vs. preparing.

  5. Posted by 0157 on

    Remember Ecoli-0157?
    This will explode in places like Arviat
    Municipal services need to step up

  6. Posted by Ezekiel Maktar on

    Both of the two are living in the island?

  7. Posted by Northern Fender on

    What a silly response. With people like this in charge, I am truly concerned about these communities.

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