Health authorities confirm first COVID-19-related deaths in Nunavut

Arviat and Rankin Inlet residents have been identified as the first people to die in the territory from the disease.

Arviat, Rankin Inlet residents identified as first to die in territory from COVID-19

Nunavut health authorities announced Sunday that a resident of Arviat had died from complications related to COVID-19, marking the territory's first-ever death from the disease. (Submitted by Dylan Clark)

Nunavut's health authorities have confirmed the territory's first-ever deaths from COVID-19.

A news release issued Sunday morning said a resident of Arviat and another from Rankin Inlet died of complications related to COVID-19 Saturday.

"This is a very sad day," the release said. "On behalf of the Government of Nunavut, we send our thoughts and condolences to the family, communities of Arviat and Rankin Inlet and all Nunavummiut during this difficult time."

Nunavut did not report its first case of COVID-19 until Nov. 6. But since then, the disease has spread rapidly in a small number of communities.

Arviat is currently in the midst of an outbreak, which began on Nov. 13 with a single case related to travel. Since then, more than 200 residents in the community of fewer than 3,000 people have tested positive for the disease.

The news release says the Arviat resident was medevaced to a hospital in southern Canada before dying in hospital late Saturday afternoon.

The Rankin Inlet resident contracted the disease in southern Canada, the release says, and also died late Saturday after developing complications.

"Out of respect for both individuals and their families, we will not be releasing additional information," the release says.

"We ask Nunavummiut to stay strong and remain vigilant to limit the spread of the virus."

As of Friday, the territory had 34 active cases of COVID-19. Health authorities last identified a new case of COVID-19, in Arviat, on Thursday.