COVID-19 surges prompt emergency measures in some northern communities

Yukon, N.W.T. and Nunavik all grappling with recent spikes

Some northern communities are already getting hit hard as the nation braces itself for a possible rise in COVID-19 cases.

In the Northwest Territories, a 10-day containment order is in effect for Tuktoyaktuk. The remote northern hamlet has been hit with 72 cases.

“It’s a ghost town right now. It’s really challenging right now for this community because of our limited resources,” said Mayor Erwin Elias.

For such a small community the surge has been a learning curve, Elias said. All non-essential businesses are closed. Masks are mandatory and schools have switched to remote learning.

“We went right back to — I don’t know if you call it phase one — a year and a half ago when we really tightened up the restrictions.”

A territorial rapid response team has been sent to Tuk to help local health-care workers, and the containment order is expected to end at midnight on Nov. 19.

Meanwhile, Nunavik in northern Quebec is home to 14 Inuit communities and has the highest infection rate in the province. Thirty new cases have been reported this week with 259 active cases.

Health officials say the risk of catching COVID-10 in Nunavik is the highest it’s ever been.

And the same goes for the Yukon.

“To respond to this spike in cases and increased risk in transmission, our government has declared a state of emergency,” said Yukon Premier Sandy Silver.

The premier said announcing a state of emergency allows the territory to implement new measures.

With over 150 active cases, masks are required in public spaces and residents are reminded to maintain social distancing.

But now territorial public service workers who are not fully vaccinated by the end of January will be placed on unpaid leave until they comply.

Silver encourages everyone in the territory to get vaccinated if possible.

“The vaccine remains the best form of protection against COVID-19 and they are also our way out of this pandemic,” said Silver.

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