Nunavut, a northern territory – is a rare place in North America that can say it’s free of coronavirus in its communities. Whereas Covid cases are rising in rest of Canada.
When lockdown began throughout the world, every country or state decided to slam their borders and so did Nunavut. They brought in some of the strictest travel regulations in Canada, barring entry to almost all non-residents.
Residents returning home from the south would first have to spend two weeks, at the Nunavut government’s expense, in “isolation hubs” – hotels in the cities of Winnipeg, Yellowknife, Ottawa or Edmonton. To date, just over 7,000 Nunavummiut have spent time in these hubs as a stopover on their return home.
But Fortunately now, The cases in Nunavut are zero. That means Nunavut is officially free of Covid19.
With the Arctic Ocean at the north and Northwest Territories to the west about 36,000 people live in Nunavut. They live in 25 communities scattered across its two million square kilometers (809,000 square miles). That’s about three times the size of Texas.
The distances are “mind-boggling at times”, admits Dr Patterson.
In late September, there were cases linked to workers who flew in from the south to a gold mine 160km (100 miles) from the Arctic Circle.
(Those cases are currently being counted as infections in the miners’ home jurisdictions, keeping the territory’s official case count at nil).
That outbreak has “almost no chance” of spreading in the community because there hasn’t been any travel between the mine and any of the communities for months, says Dr Patterson.
However, the isolation which is being used to prevent spread of covid-19 is also creating hurdles. Early on, tests results could take a week, meaning “you’re really, really far behind by the time you can identify and respond”, Dr Patterson says. There are efforts under way to boost testing capacity and turnaround times for results in the territory.
The medical resources are also limited. The 35-bed acute care Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit, the capital, could handle about 20 Covid-19 patients, Dr Patterson estimates.
In the case of an outbreak, “those people who need treatment, or need admission, many of them will wind up having to go south and so that will be another load on our Medivac system”.
Inuit, who make up over 80% of the territory’s population, are a high-risk group in general for respiratory infections, including tuberculosis, says Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national advocacy group.
Inuit are nearly 300 times more likely to get tuberculosis than non-indigenous Canadians.
His own family experience with the respiratory illness brought home the potential dangers of Covid-19 for Ian Kanayuk.
The 20-year-old student and his mother came down with it a few years ago. He spent nine months on medication, his mother had a lengthy hospital stay.
Dr Patterson says those are still necessary because “even though the hubs are there, the hubs aren’t perfect”. There are also some exemptions to the mandatory out-of-territory isolation, for example for certain critical workers.
The pandemic has also affected an already strained mail system, causing to frustrations over length queues to pick up packages.
The Iqaluit post office was already one of the busiest in Canada, since so many residents depend on Amazon’s free delivery to the Arctic city.
That post office has seen a spike in the number of parcels during the pandemic “beyond anything we could have anticipated”, Canada Post said in a statement.
Canada imposed lockdown since march and then lifted it gradually.
Quebec and Ontario are highly populated and thus with winter season approaching cases are taking spike again.
Notably, Health officials have warned a major surge still has the potential to overwhelm the healthcare system. Additionally, infections have begun making their way back into long-term care homes.
Places like Quebec and Ontario are imposing lockdown again to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Other parts of Canada are fairing better.
About 77,000 Canadians are being tested daily, but the goal is to be able to test up to 200,000 daily nationwide.
As of late last week, there had been 191,732 cases nationwide and 9,699 deaths.