Health investigation continuing in Inuit region of Arctic Quebec as active COVID-19 cases rise to 11

The community of Inukjuak in Nunavik, Quebec. As of Friday, there were two active, but unlinked, COVID-19 cases in the community. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

The health board in Nunavik, the Inuit region of Arctic Quebec, said on Friday its public health investigation is ongoing as active COVID-19 cases rise to 11.

All people who’ve had contact with infected individuals will be tested and asked to isolate, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) said in a Facebook post.

Nunavik Case Counts

As of Friday, the most recent community case counts were:

  • Ivujivik – 9 active cases
  • Inukjuak – 2 active cases that are not linked
  • There are also four active cases outside of Nunavik, but linked to airports within the region

The NRBHSS says several people are still under observation in Ivujivik and Inukjuak and more results are expected soon.

-Source: Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services 

Ivujivik has been under lockdown since Wednesday.

A curfew has been put in place from 11pm to 7am, all flights have been cancelled, and the local airport is open only for essential services.

The Kativik Regional Government (KRG) building in Kuujjuaq, Quebec. “Nunavimmiut are encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible.,” the KRG said in a news release. “It is the most efficient means at our disposal to stop the spread of this highly contagious virus in our communities. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

“The fewer the contacts between the residents of the different communities the more chances residents will give themselves to limit the virus from spreading,” the Kativik Regional Government, which administers Nunavik, said in a news release.

“Visits to the coop store should be limited to one member of a household and for as short a duration as possible, while respecting proper preventive measures.”

On-the-land activities OK if among the same household

Daycares, churches and community centres are all closed and residents have been instructed to cease visiting with anyone not in their immediate household.

Resident are permitted to go out on the land as long is it is only with those living in the same house.

Ivujivik was put on red alert this week after an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. (Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services)

The mayor’s office in Ivujivik did not respond to requests for comment on the situation in the community by deadline, but the NRBHSS called for solidarity to help the region get through the current outbreak.

“There is an increase in COVID-19 cases in the region. While the measures in place serve to protect communities, individuals should also protect themselves individually and at the same time, protect elders and children.”

Low vaccination rates a concern

Vaccination rates remain low in many of Nunavik’s communities and health officials have long worried about the impact that might have if infections made their way to the region this year.

The most recent data released for Nunavik on September 29 showed 55 per cent of Ivujivik’s population over 12 years old had received two doses of the vaccine, meaning only 41 per cent of the total population of 414 was fully vaccinated.

Region-wide, 40 per cent of Nunavik’s total population of approximately 13,000 is fully vaccinated.

No one at the NRBHSS was available on Friday for an interview before deadline, but in emailed comment, the NRBHSS said continuing to encourage vaccination uptake is a high priority.

“Vaccination promotion is of course, stronger than ever. Let’s remind to the population that being vaccinated greatly reduces the risk of serious complications and contagion.”

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: ‘Waning immunity’ a factor in COVID-19 outbreak in Canada’s Northwest Territories, says top doc, CBC News

Greenland: Greenland lifts COVID-19 restrictions on direct travel to small communities, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland to change COVID-19 border rules on October 1, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Rural Alaska at risk as COVID-19 surge swamps faraway hospitals, The Associated Press

Antarctica: U.K. delivers COVID-19 vaccine to British station in Antarctica, Eye on the Arctic

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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