Canadian territory of Nunavut confirms case of COVID-19 in Rankin Inlet

Residents of Rankin Inlet have been asked by the government of Nunavut to stay home as much as possible. (Joe Mahoney/CBC)
This case brings the territory’s total number of cases to 3

A case of COVID-19 in Rankin Inlet was confirmed by Nunavut’s chief public health officer on Wednesday. It is the territory’s third confirmed case.

Dr. Michael Patterson said the person who tested positive is in isolation and doing well, in a news release Wednesday morning.

Patterson says contact tracing has started. He says Rankin Inlet has a large public health team on the ground, but a rapid response team is on standby, in case their help becomes necessary.

The community of Rankin Inlet has been asked to stay home as much as possible and limit contact with others including family members they don’t live with.

“It is critical that health measures are strictly followed by everyone to quickly contain any potential spread in the community,” Patterson said in the release.

Non-essential businesses to close

All indoor gatherings are now prohibited and outdoor gatherings are limited to five people or fewer.

Residents are required to wear masks while outside their homes.

All non-essential businesses have been asked to close. Grocery stores will be reducing their opening hours. The Northern store said on Facebook it will be enforcing a maximum of 25 people in the main store at all time and a maximum of five people in the Quickstop.

It asks, if possible one family member per household shop at a time. The store has set a table up at the entrance with hand sanitizer, each person entering is asked to use it.

The Co-op will be closed Wednesday, reopening Thursday.  Gas stations and cargo will also stay open. Nunavut Arctic College has announced on Facebook that it will temporarily be closing its facilities in the community, with classes being suspended or moved online depending on the program.

Schools to close 14 days

All three of the community’s school will also be shut down for 14 days, with no teachers or students permitted in the buildings. The Rankin Inlet District Education Authority said on Facebook that principals in all the schools have been preparing for this closure and will have learning packages available for each student.

The positive case will not affect travel to Churchill, Man., but the release says the government will be announcing impacts to the Northwest Territories travel bubble.

The government of Nunavut is advising against travel to and from Rankin Inlet at this time and says any individual who has travelled to or through Rankin Inlet, with a layover of longer than four hours since Nov. 5, must self-monitor for 14 days from when they left the community.

Rankin Inlet is ready, mayor says

Harry Towtongie, Rankin Inlet’s mayor, said there was a bit of panic and confusion in the community in the morning, but after the information was out that there is only one case so far, there was a bit more calm.

Towtongie says one of the hotels, the Nanuq Lodge, has been identified as a spot to isolate, if it’s needed.

“We’re kind of ready for it, we’ve been through [lockdown in March],” Towtongie said. He said the community knows what they need to do to stay safe and has plans in place.

Agnico Eagle has also offered support to the community in the form of testing, if needed, Towtongie said.

Vigilance needed, says health minister

Minister of Health Lorne Kusugak said in the release: “now is the time to be vigilant with social distancing, washing your hands, and staying home.”

He also reassured Rankin Inlet residents on local radio at 10 a.m. this morning.

Anyone who believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19 is asked to call the government of Nunavut’s COVID-hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET, or call their local health centre.

This is Nunavut’s third confirmed case of COVID-19, two cases in the same household in Sanikiluaq were announced earlier this month.

A case of COVID-19 was also confirmed at one of the territory’s southern isolation hubs in Winnipeg this week.

The government of Nunavut has scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m. ET on Thursday to provide an update.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Inuit association in Canada’s eastern Arctic adjusts COVID-19 financial support announcement after deluge of applications, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Greenland adds new incentive to promote domestic tourism as international travel craters, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: New COVID-19 restrictions for Iceland’s schools and universities, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Sweden’s northernmost county among regions to introduce stricter COVID-19 recommendations, Radio Sweden

United States: After early containment success, there’s now rapid COVID-19 spread in rural Alaska, including the Arctic, Alaska Public Media

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