Nunavut has zero active cases of COVID-19, officials say

Territory remains virus free for now as authorities watch spiking cases in the south

Just before New Year’s, the Nunavut government announced there were zero active cases of COVID-19 in the territory.

Officials took questions from reporters on Tuesday for the first time since that announcement, where Premier Joe Savikataaq said 265 Nunavummiut have recovered from COVID-19, though it wasn’t all good news.

“I’m very sad to report that five Nunavummiut have passed away due to COVID-19. Four of these individuals contracted the virus in southern Canada, and it is likely their death will be reported in those jurisdictions,” he said.

An Arviat man died after being medevaced south after developing complications related to COVID-19.

Silatik Qavvik, from the community of Sanikiluaq, died after contracting COVID-19 in Winnipeg where she travelled to give birth.

The three others also contracted the virus in the south, though few other details are available.

Nunavut’s chief public health officer thinks restrictions will be in place for some time to come.

“At least another week or two. It depends on what happens in Arviat and Whale Cove, but it also depends on what happens in the south, where the numbers are rising. Even with the hubs, as we’ve seen, when the numbers rise in the south it increases the risk of COVID getting through,” said Dr. Michael Patterson.

Many held parades when the zero active cases were announced, but there are over 400 people in Nunavut under investigation for possible COVID-19.

Nunavut’s vaccination program begins Wednesday at the elders’ home in Iqaluit.

After that, the first communities to receive it are Cambridge Bay, Arviat, Gjoa Haven and Igloolik.

“They have long-term care facilities for elders in each of those communities, so it’s important to get them protected as quickly as we can,” said Patterson of why they were selected.

With other Canadian leaders facing criticism for their government members travelling for the holidays, APTN News asked Savikataaq if any government members or senior staff left Nunavut over the vacation.

“No, none have,” the premier replied.

At the end of the press conference, Savikataaq came back to clarify he was only talking about cabinet members and some senior staff, and he hadn’t accounted for medical travel.

“To make it clear that myself or no member of cabinet have travelled south during the holidays. I can’t speak for all senior staff, but I do have one of my senior staff that’s down on medical travel,” he said.

Video Journalist / Iqaluit

Kent has been APTN’s Nunavut correspondent since 2007. In that time he has closely covered Inuit issues, including devolution and the controversial Nutrition North food subsidy. He has also worked for CKIQ-FM in Iqaluit and as a reporter for Nunavut News North.