COVID-19 cases up in Arviat, Nunavut, but no evidence of 'uncontrolled' transmission

IQALUIT, Nunavut — COVID-19 infections rose sharply in Arviat on Thursday, but Nunavut's top doctor said there is no sign of uncontrolled spread and numbers are declining overall.

The community on the western shore of Hudson Bay tallied 10 new illnesses to bring the active case count to 14.

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Arviat's population of about 2,800 has been under a strict lockdown since November. Schools and non-essential businesses are closed and travel is restricted. A state of emergency was declared Feb. 24 and there's a nightly curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson said there is no evidence of community transmission.

"If things continue on this way, we can look at working with the hamlet to ease some of the measures next week," he said.

Arviat is the only place in the territory where COVID-19 is active. It has had higher numbers than anywhere else in Nunavut since the pandemic began — 325 of 369 total cases.

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, who is from Arviat, said the overall weekly decline is "still encouraging." Last week, there were 25 cases.

"We should expect that case numbers will vary day to day," he said.

Two COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been held in Arviat. The second one was dedicated to administering second doses.

Patterson said there is no evidence of "vaccine failure" in Arviat. "A failure ... would be getting new COVID (cases) two weeks or more after a vaccination."

Health experts say it takes about 14 days for the COVID-19 vaccines to take effect.

Patterson said his department is not releasing community-specific vaccination numbers and would not say how many people in Arviat have been vaccinated. To date, 8,628 of Nunavut's 39,000 residents have received one dose of the vaccine and 5,125 have had two shots.

The territory has received 26,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine so far. Nunavut's original goal was to have its vaccine rollout completed by the end of March, but Patterson said that will be extended into April.

The territory initially faced some delays in vaccine shipments, he said.

"As the vaccine supply ramps up, we're now into the stage where that's no longer an issue. Staff will be able to go much faster and much more efficiently starting now."

John Main, Arviat's member of the legislature, is urging the government to provide isolation spaces for infected residents who live in overcrowded housing

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship

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