10 new cases of COVID-19 found in Nunavut, with signs of community spread in Arviat

Just two days after the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Arviat, Nunavut, nine new cases have been identified in the community as health officials warn of “signs of community transmission.”

A second case in Rankin Inlet, also reported Sunday, has also “been linked to Arviat,” a release from the chief public health officer states. 

Nunavut’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was identified just nine days ago, on Nov. 6. Since then, its active case count has ballooned to 18, more than doubling with the announcement of 10 new confirmed cases Sunday afternoon.

While cases have been identified in Sanikiluaq and Rankin Inlet, Arviat appears to be in the midst of a minor outbreak, with a release sent Sunday suggesting there are as yet “no clear links” between the 14 active cases in the community.

The chief public health officer’s release also says all individuals are “in isolation and doing well.”

The territory’s rapid response teams have been deployed to all three communities, and contact tracing continues, “with the end goal to trace and contain” the disease.

As of today, travel is restricted between Kivalliq communities, which includes Arviat, to help prevent further spread. Only emergency and cargo flights will be permitted, and hunters are asked not to travel to neighbouring communities.

Kivalliq schools have been closed to in-person instruction since the cases were first announced.

Sunday’s release also specified new measures to contain the spread and limit the risk to elders. 

“Due to the number of cases of COVID-19 in Arviat, anyone from Arviat who left the community on or after November 2 is being asked to immediately isolate for 14 days wherever they are,” Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, is quoted in the release as saying.

“In addition, to protect Elders in Arviat, there will be no visitors allowed at the Elders’ centre for at least two weeks,” the quote continues. “Exemptions to this rule will need to be approved by the public health doctor on call.”

Nunavut requires all inbound travellers from outside the territory to isolate for two weeks at dedicated centres in major southern cities. For months, the territory saw no confirmed positive cases outside mine sites.

But in both Arviat and Rankin Inlet, travellers who completed two weeks at Nunavut’s isolation centres have demonstrated symptoms upon their return to the territory. Health officials have not yet identified the source of infection.

On Friday, Patterson recommended anyone returning from those hubs self-monitor for symptoms and observe strict physical distancing for two more weeks after their return.

Spokespersons for the chief public health officer did not respond to media requests sent Saturday. The premier and chief public health officer are next scheduled to speak to media Monday at 11 a.m.

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