'We need to be patient': Nunavut adds 25 new COVID-19 cases
TORONTO -- Nunavut has added 25 new COVID-19 cases, the second highest increase the territory has seen.
As of Saturday, the territory reported a total of 109 COVID-19 cases. Twenty-two new cases were identified in Arviat, bringing the community’s number of positive cases there to 80.
Health officials say there remains no evidence of community transmission in Rankin Inlet or Whale Cove and that all 107 individuals actively with COVID-19 are in isolation and are doing well, with mild to moderate symptoms. Two recoveries were announced Saturday.
Premier Joe Savikataaq said he's spent the last nine months preparing for the inevitable moment of the virus' arrival.
"We've always known that the virus was eventually going to make its way into Nunavut," the premier told CTV News Channel on Saturday. "We need to be patient [...] stay home, don’t gather, wash your hands, that’s the best way to stop this virus to keep from spreading."
He added, "The message we want to bring is to be calm. No one has been hospitalized yet. Everyone who has COVID in Nunavut is isolating and they’re at home."
Last week, the territory announced that it would be going into a two-week lockdown and ordered all schools, government offices and non-essential businesses to close.
Savikataaq said the federal government has reassured him that they will provide assistance and resources if needed.
GAPS IN INFRASTRUCTURE, HEALTH CARE
Nunavut is home to about 39,000 people spread across more than two million square kilometres, but the region only has one hospital with 25 beds and no intensive care unit.
The situation is made worse because there are no roads connecting communities and transportation to the hospital also poses a challenge to residents.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson says anyone needing to be hospitalized with COVID-19 would likely be flown out of the territory.
John Main, who represents Arviat-North and Whale Cove in Nunavut's legislative assembly, told The Canadian Press that housing issues, food insecurity and unemployment are all contributing to the spread of COVID-19.
"It’s no secret that we’re in a housing crisis. We’ve had issues around housing for many, many years ... Things like multiple generations of families living in one unit, people sleeping in areas that are not meant to be bedrooms," Main said. "We know that there’s all these things that are working against us, these things we have to battle alongside COVID now."
According to figures from Nunavut Housing Corp., 56 per cent of Nunavut Inuit live in overcrowded homes. A separate report on Nunavut's infrastructure gap from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. also notes 41 per cent of homes need major repairs.
"We’re quite vulnerable here," the premier said on Saturday. "We know that we have lots of overcrowding in houses, but we can control the spread of the virus."
"We will prevail," he added.
With files from The Canadian Press.