Resident of Inuit region of Arctic Quebec tests positive for COVID-19 in South

The Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services in Kuujjuaq, Quebec. There have been 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavik since the pandemic began. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)
A resident of Nunavik, the Inuit region of Arctic Quebec, has tested positive for COVID-19 in the South, the region’s health board said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

The Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) said the person would not return north to the region until they no longer risked spreading the virus. 

“All significant contacts of the aforementioned individual in the South have been reached and put into isolation,” the NRBHSS said.  “This person has not had any significant contact with people who are currently in Nunavik.”

The NRBHSS did not specify in their announcement whether the individual had been down South on a medical appointment, but referenced Ullivik, the Dorval residence for Nunavik residents in Montreal for health services.

“Ullivik remains a safe location for travelers seeking medical care in Montreal,” the NRBHSS said. 

Montreal a COVID-19 “Red Zone”

This is the second reported case of a Nunavik resident testing positive outside of the region within the last two weeks.

In a Facebook post on September 30, the NRBHSS said they’d been a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a Nunavik resident was outside of the region, and the individual wouldn’t be returning to Arctic Quebec until they were symptom free.

The Ullivik Centre is a 91-room, 143-bed facility for Inuit seeking medical treatment in the Montreal area. The Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services says Ullivik “remains a safe location for travellers seeking medical care in Montreal.” (CBC)

The NRBHSS didn’t specify that the person had been in Montreal on a medical appointment, but as with this week’s announcement, sought to reassure travellers that “Ullivik remains a safe location for travelers seeking medical care in Montreal.”

COVID-19 numbers in Quebec have increased across the province in recent weeks as the province navigates its second wave. The government implemented a COVID-19 colour-coded system at the beginning of September: The Montreal-area is currently declared a red zone, meaning “maximum alert” when it comes to COVID-19.

Nunavik remains at “yellow” or the lowest level. After a long period of being COVID free, Nunavik has reported two new cases within the last three weeks, one in  Kuujjuaraapik on the Hudson Bay coast, and another case in Inukjuak, 350 km to the north. 

Double testing coming next week

The NRBHSS announced on Thursday that they’d be instituting a double testing regime for travellers to Nunavik starting next week.

Nunavik has a population of approximately 13,000 people, with 14 communities in the region, all of which are fly-in only. 

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at) 

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s Northwest Territories has some of the most strict gathering and self-isolation restrictions in the country, CBC News

Finland:  Finnair to end flights to five regional airports, including to Kemi, Lapland, Yle News

Denmark: Faroe Islands updates COVID-19 guidelines for travellers, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Greenland approves revised COVID-19 strategy, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland to continue double screening for COVID-19 until December 1, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norwegians with Swedish property threaten legal action over travel restrictions, Radio Sweden

Sweden: Finland, UK to remove travel restrictions on Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: To stop coronavirus, Arctic communities took matters into their own hands. Can it last?, Blog by Mia Bennett

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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