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More Covid-19 cases expected in Iglulik in the coming days; exposure at new Iqaluit jail

The Government of Nunavut is expecting significantly more confirmed cases in Iglulik in the coming days as public health measures in the community were moved to the strictest in the territory Monday evening.
Nunavut premier P.J. Akeeagok sanitizes his hands during a Government of Nunavut Covid-19 update. Trevor Wright/NNSL photo

The Government of Nunavut is expecting significantly more confirmed cases in Iglulik in the coming days as public health measures in the community were moved to the strictest in the territory Monday evening.

“With the lag on the numbers that are reported everyday, it doesn’t give us every number we know of, or the staff in the community health centre are aware of. Staff at the health centre have had enough tests lined up to keep their ID devices busy at least until the end of Wednesday,” said Nunavut’s chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson.

As of Jan. 25 there are 24 active cases being reported in the community, down from 42 the previous day.

More household introductions and more calls to the Government of Nunavut Covid-19 hotline in Iglulik were also among the signs of continued spread.

“I fully expect in the next two to three days we’ll see much higher numbers in Iglulik,” said Patterson.

Additional public health measures in Iglulik are as follows:

- Outdoor gatherings limited to five people;

- Indoor gatherings not allowed;

- There may be up to five visitors, only for essential or emergency services;

- Schools to remain closed;

- Daycares may open for the children of essential workers;

- Places of worship, libraries and arenas are closed;

- Restaurants are take-out only;

- Elders homes and long term care facilities are closed to visitors;

- In-person group counselling sessions are not allowed;

- Masks remain mandatory.

“This kind of outbreak in a community can happen at any time and we have to keep our eyes open to the signals that it’s happening and maintain the flexibility to respond,” said Patterson.

There have been nine hospitalizations in Nunavut due to Covid-19, some past cases reported as Covid-19 hospitalizations were previously corrected and taken off the list.

“Grappling with this pandemic is not easy and has been hard on all of us, but please be patient, kind and community minded,” said Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok.

Covid-19 outbreak in new Iqaluit jail

Twelve tests from the new Aaqqigiarvik Correctional Healing Facility have come back positive, 170 PCR tests were performed on correctional staff and inmates at the new jail.

The Department of Justice is awaiting further test results which may result in more cases.

In late December Corrections instituted additional measures in its jails.

“Corrections implemented more strict protocols in all of our facilities. With Covid now in the facility we have increased all Covid contingencies, which includes dedicated wings for isolating clients,” said David Akeeagok, Nunavut’s justice minister. Other correctional facilities in Nunavut are continuing to be monitored for cases, he added.

Schools reopening

For most of Nunavut’s communities, it’s back to school for many students who will return with modified Covid-19 measures in place. Depending on the community schools will open at 50 or 100 per cent capacity in different cohorts.

While there are risks to reopening schools, students are less likely to catch Covid-19 with the current measures in place.

“It’s possible but it’s not guaranteed. The Department of Education has a number of measures in place for schools that should reduce transmission,” said Patterson.

New shipments of the Pfizer pediatric vaccine for Nunavummiut ages five to 11 will be arriving in various communities on Jan. 30.

Sixteen communities will be seeing mass vaccination clinics over the next few weeks stretching into mid, late-February while eight communities will be doing vaccinations through appointment.

Times and locations for mass and scheduled vaccinations are expected to be published by the Government of Nunavut in a forthcoming release.

“Personally my goal in 100 per cent uptake of the vaccine for everyone who can take. But as a department we haven’t set a number and said this is what we’re heading for, we’re working toward raising vaccination rates because we know the more people who are vaccinated, the less the risks are from Covid-19,” said Health Minister John Main.

On Jan. 22 the first of these mass vaccination clinics took place at Iqaluit’s Inuksuk High School, where 180 12 to 17 year olds and 40 adults were vaccinated.

Instructions for the incoming expected rapid tests kits will be available in Inuktitut, said the premier.

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