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Arviat bracing for a longer lockdown

MLA says community staying upbeat despite continued restrictions

It will be at least another two weeks until life is back to normal in Arviat. Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson ordered the community to remain under lockdown on Dec. 2 as restrictions were eased across the rest of the territory.

A photo of Arviat taken from outside town. Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main said the community is trying to stay upbeat and supportive after it was announced they will remain on lockdown until the middle of December in an effort to isolate the current Covid-19 outbreak there. photo courtesy of John Main

As of Dec. 2, Arviat accounted for 65 of the territory's 80 active Covid-19 cases. In total 113 people have been reported as recovered throughout Nunavut.

"We're kind of standing alone in Arviat in terms of the lockdown. Which is tough on everyone: Elders, kids, families and businesses," said Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main.

"It's a real burden trying to get through this but I think everyone knows that this is for the right reasons."

Main has been at home with his family since returning from the most recent sitting of the legislative assembly at the beginning of last month.

He said he has been fielding complaints from people who have been impacted the most by the lockdown, in particular people who have tested positive and had to quarantine with family members in crowded houses.

"It's very hard on families. It hasn't been an easy time for a lot of them."

Main said the community has been doing its best to cope with the circumstances for the past few weeks.

"At first, the positive cases being announced, it was a big shock for the community. Since then people have gotten out of that shock and moved into response mode," he said.

"It's been really heartwarming on some levels to see the community come together."

To help keep spirits up, residents have been coming together to sing on their doorsteps. Main said there have also been several "mini-parades," where people have driven around town, while remaining in their vehicles, to celebrate people who have recovered from Covid-19.

"It's difficult when we're not supposed to gather and see each other."

Main added that the local radio station has played a large role in boosting morale. People have been calling in regularly to offer positive wishes to each other. Meanwhile church services have also been offered over the airwaves.
"It's been a real gathering place for the community. There's been a lot of hard work put in by the radio announcers. They're definitely deserving of some credits."

Community support inspiring

The additional support to the community offered by NTI and Agnico Eagle, as well as $500,000 worth of food distributed by Food Banks Canada, has helped ensure people don't go hungry, Main said. A big donation of caribou meat from Baker Lake is also on its way so Arviatmiut can have access to country food.

"The food hamper distribution through the hamlet was extremely well-received by the community and took a lot of stress off of people in the community that have issues around food security," said Main.

Arviat has come together to boost morale and persevere through pandemic-related restrictions due to lockdown. photo courtesy of Jocelyn Malla

Businesses have also been negatively impacted by the shutdown. On the one hand taxis, contractors and hotels have seen most of their income disappear. On the other hand, essential services like grocery stores have been operating under increased strain.

"The retail stores in town have really stepped up to help," he said, pointing to the additional measures which have been in place to keep people safe.

They have been providing delivery services as well as specialized Elders hours to allow vulnerable people to shop with less risk. Main said staff at grocery stores have been bearing the brunt of the workload to keep the community going.

"Staff are at increased risk due to exposure. It's a stressful time for those people. They're very important."

Going forward, Main said he is hopeful that the community will pull together and do what it takes to get the case number back down to zero. However, he said that recovery will rely on people sticking to guidelines and not breaking the rules.

"If we have people start breaking or bending the rules we could have another spike in cases here."