Arviat declares state of emergency amid rising number of COVID-19 cases

The community is declaring a seven-day state of emergency as new cases of COVID-19 are discovered daily.

Community has seen 86 cases of COVID-19 since Jan. 22

An aerial view of an Arctic hamlet in winter.
A file photo of Arviat in 2016. The hamlet has declared a local state of emergency amid a rising wave of COVID-19 cases. (Submitted by Dylan Clark)

The hamlet of Arviat, Nunavut, is declaring a local state of emergency amid a rising wave of COVID-19 cases months after it seemed the community had eradicated the disease.

Health authorities have recorded 86 cases of COVID-19 since Jan. 22, when a second wave of diagnoses began.

The state of emergency starts Wednesday. Arviat Mayor Joe Savikataaq Jr. announced the move on a local radio station Tuesday afternoon, following a vote by council earlier that morning.

Under the state of emergency, the community will have a strict curfew beginning at 10 p.m. and ending at 6 a.m. each day. Hunters and those with shifts outside regular hours will still be allowed to leave their homes during these hours.

The hamlet has doubled their bylaw staff, who will now be patrolling 24 hours a day. Businesses will be provided with personal protective equipment to minimize the risk of spreading the disease.

People breaking curfew will be reported to the RCMP for violating public health orders. Anyone needing help getting supplies is asked to call the hamlet.

Spokespersons for the government of Nunavut told CBC they are aware of the state of emergency and supporting the hamlet. The declaration will expire in seven days if it is not renewed by officials.

Cases mounting

Arviat, a community of nearly 3,000 people, is one of few places in Nunavut to record cases of COVID-19, and the only place where there are still active cases today.

More than 300 people have tested positive for the disease since the first case was found in the community in November. One person has died, and there are currently 33 active cases in the community.

The community appeared to have eradicated the disease in January, with no new cases being reported between Dec. 28 and Jan. 22. But since then, new cases have been announced nearly every day, with 57 new cases in February alone.

Travel in and out of the hamlet is currently restricted to those travelling for emergencies or essential purposes. 

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is currently available in the community, but it's not clear how successful the vaccination program there has been. CBC has requested information from the health department on the number of vaccines administered in Arviat, but has not yet received a reply.

Residents who suspect they may have come in contact with COVID-19 are asked to call the COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST, or notify their community health centre right away, and immediately isolate at home for 14 days.