Nunavut’s COVID-19 caseload more than doubles overnight to 60!/fileImage/httpImage/image.JPG_gen/derivatives/16x9_620/arviat.JPG

Nunavut announced 34 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — more than doubling the territory’s total case count overnight.

The territory now has 60 confirmed cases, all announced in the last 11 days.

Of the new cases announced Tuesday, 26 are in Arviat. That brings the total in that community to 46.

The other eight new cases are in Whale Cove. They are the first to be identified in that community.

A government news release on Tuesday said one of the affected individuals in Whale Cove is linked to the outbreak in Arviat, and the coronavirus was then transmitted by that person to seven others in Whale Cove.

The release said all individuals are in isolation and “doing well.”

Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief medical officer, said in the news release that contact tracing is underway in all communities. He said there is currently no evidence of community transmission in Whale Cove, as all the confirmed cases are linked to Arviat. 

The territory’s other confirmed cases include four in Rankin Inlet and two in Sanikiluaq.

Nunavut will enter a mandatory, territory-wide restriction period for two weeks, starting Wednesday, as a response, Patterson said. The move was made to limit the spread of the virus. All non-essential services, businesses and organizations will be required to close and wherever possible, switch to work from home.

Masks will be strongly recommended in public spaces and when physical distance can’t be maintained.

In the Kivalliq region, and Sanikiluaq, masks will remain mandatory.

‘I feel for them’ 

Tuesday’s news hit close to home for Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, who is from Arviat.

“We care for all communities, but this has a special place for me,” he said. “I know everyone there. I feel for them.”

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq is urging residents to avoid social gatherings and follow public health advice. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

Savikataaq said it’s believed the virus was circulating in Arviat for about a week before it was detected, and that’s why people were asked to practise physical distancing and to limit their visits, even when the territory had no confirmed cases.

“When the disease gets there, [initially] we don’t know if it’s there or not,” he said.

He could not say whether any of the confirmed cases are linked to overcrowded housing, an issue endemic to the territory.

“That will be answered through the contact tracing,” Savikataaq said. “But obviously, if you have overcrowded housing, then the odds of COVID-19 spreading in that household [are] greater than if there’s fewer people in the house.”

He said hotels and gymnasiums would be made available for people to safely isolate if needed.

Savikataaq’s advice to Nunavummiut — residents of Nunavut — is to follow public health guidelines, including avoiding social gatherings, wearing a mask in public and washing your hands often.

“If we do that, we can … slow down the spread of the virus, or stop the spread of the virus,” he said.