Sanikiluaq outbreak officially over, says Nunavut top doctor

There are no new cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut on Friday. This update marks the last televised update from the territory until the new year.

Santa Claus gets essential worker exemption

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

An outbreak of COVID-19 in Sanikiluaq is officially over, Nunavut's Chief Public Health Officer announced in a televised update on Friday. 

The two cases confirmed in the community in early November have been recovered for 28 days as of Thursday. That's the number of days required to pass from the time of the last recovered case to declare an end to a community outbreak, said Dr. Michael Patterson, chief public health officer, on Friday.

While cases in Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet are recovered, outbreaks in those communities are still being monitored and restrictions will remain in place until further notice, he said. Arviat remains on lockdown. 

The number of new cases continues to slow in the territory. There were no new cases reported on Friday, one new case reported on Thursday and none on Wednesday. All 34 active cases in the territory are in Arviat.

Of the total 259 cases in Nunavut confirmed to date, 225 residents have recovered.  

Testing in Arviat has shown 972 negative tests as of Wednesday and 631 people are currently people followed for symptoms or contact.

Keep to your family group this holiday season, Premier says

Friday marked a final televised update from the government until the new year. Monday updates will be published in writing and any new cases will be announced as soon as possible, Premier Joe Savikataaq said.  

He urged residents to continue following public health orders over the holiday season. 

In Arviat, no visiting will be allowed. In Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove, 10 visitors are allowed, and in all other communities, 15 visitors are allowed plus the members of a household. 

Missed the press conference? Watch it here:

While arenas and community centres can be open to 50 people or 50 per cent capacity (whichever is smaller) in all communities where there is no outbreak, Premier Joe Savikataaq said this is "not an excuse" to hold parties or Christmas games.

"Please don't bounce around from one gathering to an entirely different group of people," Savikataaq said. 

However, he said Santa Claus is cleared to enter the territory an essential worker after his travels throughout the world.

Vaccine is a defence, not a cure, Patterson says

At the beginning of the week, preliminary details for vaccine distribution were announced. 

The Moderna vaccine, expected to be used in the territories, is not yet approved by Health Canada, but the federal government said pending approval, it promises enough doses to inoculate 75 per cent of Nunavut's adult population in the first three months of 2021.

"It is expected that Canada will approve the Moderna vaccine in the coming days," Patterson said. "The vaccine is safe. It has undergone all necessary trials and will protect Nunavummiut who take it from the virus." 

While Nunavut has a young population, and only adults can take the vaccine, Patterson says this is not a concern for reducing or eliminating COVID-19 in the near future. When isolation restrictions are eased following a period of vaccination, other measures will be put in place to help families protect children with compromised immune systems, he said.  

The territory has asked for between 6,000 and 12,000 doses to start, and says it has the storage to keep as many doses as can be sent. 

Patterson called the vaccine a defence, but not a cure. 

"The vaccine doesn't completely eliminate infection or break transmission," he said. "Right now the vaccines we have available don't completely end the pandemic."  

Canadian Armed Forces Traffic Technicians with Canadian Joint Operations Command load special freezers onto aircraft pallets near the Ottawa Airport on Dec. 11, 2020.The mission was part of Operation VECTOR; the Canadian Armed Forces’ support to the Government of Canada COVID-19 vaccine distribution and delivery efforts. (Cpl Matthew Tower/ Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

By next week, Patterson expects there will be entry and exit tests for COVID-19 at all hotel isolation hubs used by Nunavut residents returning from travel. 

Nunavummiut who think they've been exposed to COVID-19 can call the COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET, or notify their community health centre right away. They must also immediately isolate at home for 14 days.

The government asks those people not to go to the health centre in person.

The conference will air again in full later in the day on CBC radio.