Outbreak isn't over, Moderna vaccine best for Nunavut, officials say

Despite recoveries, it will be at least a month before Rankin Inlet is marked as free of COVID-19 and two weeks for Sanikiluaq, health officials say.

Rankin Inlet sees all cases recovered, as territory's number of active cases falls to 51

Premier Joe Savikataaq speaks at an update on government response to COVID-19 at the Legislative Assembly. Active cases fell consistently this week. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

The number of active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut continues to fall, but it will be some time before community outbreaks are officially over, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said in a news conference Friday at the Legislative Assembly. 

The territory reported a total of 51 active cases on Friday, with eight new cases reported in Arviat, and says 155 people are recovered. Patterson says most people will be immune from catching COVID-19 again for at least two or three months. 

"It means that we are moving in the right direction and we can be optimistic," he said.  

Of those 51 active cases, 44 are in Arviat. The community is in lockdown and there is community transmission still happening.

"In Arviat, there has been progress but there continues to be evidence of community transmission," Patterson said. "I urge people to stay isolated if you have been told by public health to isolate."

There also remain seven active cases in Whale Cove, but no cases are recent, he said.

In Rankin Inlet all cases were reported as recovered as of Thursday.

In a news release, Patterson said the community had "successfully flattened the curve," but said existing restrictions are still in place and won't be changed until everyone in the community is finished their mandated isolation. 

Missed the government update? Watch it here:

Moderna vaccine most 'appropriate' for Nunavut

When COVID-19 vaccines are available, Patterson said it's more likely that Nunavut will receive the Moderna vaccine because storage and shipping requirements for the Pfizer vaccine aren't appropriate for remote locations.   

If there is access in Nunavut to the Pfizer vaccine it will be in Iqaluit because of the cold storage required for the vaccine.

 "We're expecting that we won't get any of that vaccine in Nunavut," he said. 

A vaccine isn't a "magic switch" but "the more people get it, the less chance there will be of further outbreaks that are happening right now," he said.

Patterson said the government is working on education and communications plans to "combat the misinformation" that could scare people into feeling the vaccine is unsafe.  

"It's certainly a concern," he said. "We'll do everything we can to ensure Nunavummiut have accurate, up to date information and that individuals will also have the right to make the choice."

Help make holidays safe, says premier

In Rankin Inlet there will be residents isolating for the next 10 days at least and an outbreak can't be considered as over for around a month, Patterson said. Sanikiluaq won't be considered clear of COVID-19 until two weeks from now. 

"COVID-19 is not over in Nunavut. Everyone needs to ensure they do their part to bring us to zero active cases in the territory and remain committed and prepared for a potential resurgence of the virus," he said in a statement.   

Public health is following 752 people for symptoms of COVID-19 or contacts of people with the virus. 

"Our case numbers are going down but that does not mean that we can relax our hard work to eliminate this virus," Premier Joe Savikataaq said. "Let's stay safe and make sure this holiday season is as safe as possible for everyone." 

Anyone who may have had contact with COVID-19 is asked to call a COVID-hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET, or to notify their community health centre, and isolate at home for 14 days, the Health department said.

The department is asking residents not to visit their community health centres in person. 

The news conference will air later in the day on CBC Radio. 


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