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Sanikiluaq under lockdown: travel restricted and offices closed after confirmed Covid-19 case

With the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Nunavut being in the hamlet of Sanikiluaq, the community is facing a lockdown with a number of health measures being implemented, said Chief Public Health Officer Michael Patterson at a Friday news conference.

Michael Patterson speaking at a Nov. 6 news conference at the Nunavut Legislative Assembly in Iqaluit, on the first confirmed case of covid-19 in the territory. Photo by Trevor Wright.

“Effective noon today all travel to and from the Belcher Islands, including the hamlet of Sanikiluaq, by any means is restricted,” he said.

“There are exceptions for emergency medical travel, critical entry for medical response, flight emergencies and cargo. Hunters may also leave the community but not travel to any other community or any other populated area outside of the Belcher Islands, it is also advised that hunters leaving the community closely monitor themselves for symptoms and return if any develop.”

Sanikiluaq residents who have recently come in from other Nunavut communities are also asked to contact health authorities.

“If there is anyone from Sanikiluaq in Iqaluit or any other community who’s from Sanikiluaq and they’re concerned, they can either call the Covid hotline,” Patterson said.

The lockdown will also affect schooling and government services in Sanikiluaq.

“All schools – including the Nunavut Arctic College – federal, territorial and municipal government offices are closed to all but essential work.”

Laptops, iPads and internet sticks are going to be sent to Sanikiluaq for the students of the community according to Minister of Education David Joanasie.

In terms of when the lockdown would end, the CPHO said they are following the situation on a day-by-day basis.

“Once we are certain we got the individuals and the contacts with them and got everybody under isolation, then we can look at easing the measures which could take as little as a couple of days or it could take longer than that,” Patterson said.

He was also adamant about keeping silent on the details of the confirmed case as rumors can easily spread in smaller communities.

“It is really easy in a small community to give what seems like innocuous information and people who are familiar with the community will be able to identify certain individuals from two, three pieces of information and I learned the hard way that that can do a lot of harm to those individuals. So we’re not going down that road again.”

Grocery stores, as well as fuel and motor vehicle service stations, Canada Post and financial institutions may stay open. Restaurants may also stay open just for take-out services.

People are asked to wear masks when indoors and to practice social distancing, in addition to following other public health measures by the Office of the CPHO.