Nunavut enters two-week shutdown amid spike in new cases

Nunavut will enter a territory-wide, two-week shutdown to help curb the spread of COVID-19 after recording 10 new cases over the weekend, more than doubling the territory’s infections in the span of 48 hours.

Eight more cases were reported on Monday.

According to a press release issued Monday, the territory has ordered all non-essential services, businesses and organizations to close or switch to a work-from-home model starting Wednesday.

All schools will close and move to remote learning, and child-care centres will be closed to all but essential workers, according to the release.

Outdoor gatherings of more than five people will no longer be permitted, and indoor gatherings will be restricted to five people in addition to household members. The Government of Nunavut also “strongly advises” against any non-essential travel.

Nunavut’s chief public health officer says the shutdown is necessary to control community transmission.

“As we see more cases in our communities, it is vital we look at ways to break potential transmission of COVID-19 in the territory,” Dr. Michael Patterson said in the release. “Limiting any potential exposure to the virus is our best possible defense in Nunavut.”

All health centres will also close except for emergency services. Bars will close and restaurants will only be offering take-out services.

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According to the release, all recreation facilities will be closed and all sporting activities and events are suspended. Personal services, such has hairstylists and masseuses, must close as well.

Patterson said that the government will re-evaluate the effectiveness of the shutdown on Dec. 2 to determine if the new restrictions need to remain in place for longer.

Additionally, the territory is now recommending face masks be worn in all public spaces and when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Masks remain mandatory in the Kivalliq region, and Sanikiluaq.

Premier Joe Savikataaq said in the release that it is “more important than ever” that residents do their part to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in the territory’s communities.

“Nunavummiut, this is our opportunity to re-set and plank the curve in our fight against COVID-19. We all need to work together to protect one another,” Savikataaq said.

“I know this will be hard, but we can do this. If we all do our part, we will be in a much better position in early December. Please don’t take chances. Stay home and stay safe,” he said.

After remaining free of COVID-19 for months, Nunavut announced its first official case of COVID-19 on Nov. 6. Around a week later, eight cases had been reported.

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The virus has spread worryingly quickly in a region ill-equipped to handle an outbreak with the territory reporting 18 active cases as of Monday afternoon.

The vast majority of these cases have been linked to an outbreak in a specific community: the hamlet of Arviat, with a population of just over 2,600. All of the individuals who have tested positive are in isolation, according to the release.

The territory said Sunday that community transmission is believed to be occurring in Arviat, as there is no clear links between the patients to show how they became infected.

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