For nearly six weeks now, the GN has been holding press conferences in Iqaluit to inform Nunavummiut with Covid-19 updates. Today, during the 24th press conference, Dr. Michael Patterson provided some updates on equipment, testing and the Covid-19 situation within the territory.
“We’re quite good with ventilators,” said Patterson, adding there are 12 ventilators for a population of 38,000, which is “very good.” In mid-March, the territory had 7 ventilators.
There is a less pressing need for ventilators now, said Patterson. Since the situation in the south is improving, there is more capacity for intensive care units (ICU) than was originally expected, he explained.
Last month, Patterson had mentioned that anyone who requires a ventilator, will start treatment with it and then be transferred south for the ICU.
Supplies of swabs for testing Covid-19 are “getting better,” according to Nunavut’s top doctor. There is “a large shipment en route from the Federal Government of Canada and a larger shipment coming from a private company,” he explained, during today’s press conference. The exact number of swabs expected was not mentioned.
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for health-care staff is “still a bit of a concern,” said Patterson, adding but less so than it was a few weeks ago.
“PPE is certainly enough to keep us going for a few weeks if we had significant emergencies in a number of areas across the territory, but we’re still hoping to expand our supply,” he said.
The doctor assured, Nunavut is receiving PPE on a “fairly regular basis.”
On April 7, Nunavut’s chief public health officer recommended people should wear a cloth mask in situations where COVID-19 is around, and physical distancing and social distancing are difficult to maintain.
Today, Premier Joe Savikataaq announced through the Nunavut Development Corporation, the GN is funding seamstresses to make 5,000 face masks. These cotton masks will be for Elders, Nunavummiut with underlining health conditions and non-medical first responders.
About 500 masks will also be set aside for air travellers.
Since April 20, Transport Canada is requiring all air passengers to wear non-medical masks during travel.
These re-usable masks are not a replacement for other measures like social distancing and washing hands, emphasized Savikataaq, noting they serve as an additional layer of protection.
On April 7, Patterson had signed a medical directive to expand testing to people, who exhibit symptoms consistent with Covid-19, whether they were mild or severe. The health staff continues to test aggressively in communities in order to ensure no hidden transmission of Covid-19 has been missed.
Today, Patterson said the average time for getting test results for the territory is about six to seven days, depending on the flights. In mid-March, the average turnaround time for tests was four to six days, according to the doctor.
Currently, 235 people are under investigation. This number reflects people who may be waiting for test results as well as those who have received test results, but are completing their 14-day self-isolation. There are presently 250 people, who are no longer under investigation and have been cleared.
Decrease in viral infections and medevacs
Patterson believes the majority of people are following the advice and orders from the Department of Health, because there has been a “significant dent on other viral infections.”
“There’s definitely been a significant drop in influenza and RSV infections,” said Patterson. There has also been a significant drop in medevacs, he added.
Over the last four weeks, there has been a drop in medevacs and admissions to health centres for respiratory tract infections, reiterated Patterson.
“So I’m pretty certain, as certain as anybody can be, that there’s no hidden transmission of Covid-19 happening in Nunavut at this time,” he said.
There are zero cases of Covid-19 in Nunavut at present.