Life in Arviat comes to ‘standstill’ as Nunavut’s COVID-19 cases double in 4 days

Life in Arviat comes to ‘standstill’ as Nunavut’s COVID-19 cases double in 4 days

by Sue Jones
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There are now 207 active cases of COVID-19 in the territory, 48 of which are in Arviat. The hamlet’s mayor said testing capacity in his community is stretched past its limit.

Joe Savikataaq Jr

Joe Savikataaq Jr., the mayor of Arviat, Nunavut, said his community’s health-care capacity is stretched to the limit because of a surge of COVID-19 cases there. As of Monday, there were 48 active cases in Arviat. (CBC)

Everything has come to a “standstill” in Arviat says the mayor of the hamlet — which is one of several communities in Nunavut grappling with a rising number of COVID-19 cases. 

“Everything is stretched right to the limit, beyond the limit right now, due to all the contact tracing,” Joe Savikataaq Jr. told CBC News Monday morning. 

Nunavut’s territory-wide case count has climbed by another 11 cases to a total of 207, which is more than double the number of cases there were four days ago. The numbers include 48 cases in Arviat, a hamlet that is home to fewer than 3,000 people.

“We’re not sure exactly what variant it is, but it’s highly likely that it is Omicron,” said Savikataaq Jr. “The numbers are rapidly increasing and testing is an issue right now. It cannot keep up at the moment.” 

Arviat suffered the North’s first major outbreak of COVID-19 beginning in November of 2020. Six months later, the community had experienced 339 cases and one death. 

Arviat Doctor

In January of 2021, in the midst of the hamlet’s first COVID-19 outbreak, people in Arviat, Nunavut, gave an appreciative send-off to a Vancouver doctor who stayed for weeks longer than his normal rotation to help treat patients. (Nataasha Hilu Komakjuak)

To help manage the situation now, Savikataaq Jr. said the community’s health-care centre is “off limits” to the public so people are not able to visit loved ones at the elder centre. He said the community needs more “man power,” but that at least the vaccine situation is okay. 

He said a clinic is being held Monday afternoon, so more people can get their second doses or booster shots. 

Savikataaq said he doesn’t know if staff themselves are testing positive for the virus — as they are in other parts of the country — but he noted “there’s still staff” at Arviat’s health-care centre.

COVID-19 in 12 communities

The number of cases in Arviat is unchanged from Sunday, but in Iqaluit there are three more cases for a total of 56 active COVID-19 cases, five more cases in Sanirajak for a total of 14, and two more cases in Rankin Inlet for a total of 44. 

In all, there are now cases of COVID-19 in 12 communities. 

The number of cases in Pangnirtung (20), Igloolik (16), Qikiqtarjuaq (3), Chesterfield Inlet (2), Kinngait (1), Pond Inlet (1) and Baker Lake (1) remain the same, while the number of cases in Cambridge Bay dropped from two to one.

Travel to and from Arviat, Igloolik, Iqaluit, Pangnirtung, Rankin Inlet and Sanirajak is restricted to essential purposes and residents only, while strict territory-wide measures, like social gathering limits, are in place until at least Jan. 17.

Richard Aksawnee, the mayor in Baker Lake, said he was frightened to learn last week his community had its first case of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. He said he knows the virus can be managed, and is urging residents to follow public health rules. 

“I know it’s going to be [a] very stressful and hard time for everyone, but this is for everyone’ s safety, this is for everybody’s health. I’m pretty sure we can manage two weeks, to try and contain the spread of the virus.”

Savitaaq Jr., said with leisure, vacation and shopping-related travel not allowed, “everything has come to a standstill right now, in Arviat.” 

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