COVID-19 rules continue in two places after infection clusters, but will be relaxed as planned in rest of Greenland

A file photo of Ilulissat, Greenland in July 2019. Most towns like this one will start to see COVID-19 restrictions relaxed starting July 31. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

COVID-19 restrictions will start to be relaxed as planned across Greenland starting July 31, except in the two areas reporting infection clusters this week, says the Greenlandic government.

On Tuesday, the government reported 12 new cases in the Avannaata municipality in Greenland’s northwest. Four new cases were reported in the town of Upernavik , and eight were reported in the nearby settlement of Tasiusaq.

In a news release, Greenland’s national health board said all cases appeared to be from the same infection chain, but that the investigation was still ongoing.

Kaffemik, a type of Greenlandic social gathering where people drop in and visit, appears to have been a superspreader event linked to several of the infections, say health authorities.

“In many of the cases we’ve seen in Greenland, people have infected others before they knew they were infected,” said Paneeraq Noahsen from the office of the medical director.

“This is one of the reasons why we have assembly restrictions. People have participated in social events and unknowingly started a chain of infection. Although we can’t rule over people’s private homes, we strongly urge people not to gather in that way.”

Low vaccination rates also concern

Noahsen says Upernavik’s low vaccination rate has also contributed to the spread. 

“When we look at the infection chains, we see generally that it’s the unvaccinated who get infected, and also infect others. Therefore, we encourage all citizens to accept the local vaccine offers. In Upernavik, only about 51 percent of the population is vaccinated, and compared to the number nationally, it’s very low. ”

Also on Tuesday, four new cases were reported in Aasiaat, a town in the Qeqertalik municipality in western Greenland just south of Avannaata.

Health authorities say all four cases are from the same household. Contact tracing has not established the source of the infection, but so far, it’s not thought to be related to the outbreak in Upernavik.

As of Wednesday, Greenland’s health authorities reported 32 active cases across the island.

Write to Eilís at eilis.quinn@cbc.ca 

Related stories from around the North:

CanadaOutbreak declared over in Arctic Canadian city of Iqaluit, says chief public health officer, CBC News

Finland: Finland welcomes fully-vaccinated travellers, but Sputnik V isn’t valid, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Cruise ship arrives in Skagway, Alaska after passenger flown home with COVID-19, CBC News

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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