Nunavut struggles to contain coronavirus as cases rise: ‘Hardship is not a new thing’
|globalnews.ca 21 Nov 2020 at 15:10|
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It has been just over two weeks since Nunavut declared its first case of COVID-19 , but it’s still unknown how 84 people were infected so quickly in the territory.
Nunavut is home to about 39,000 people. Its 25 fly-in only communities are spread over three time zones.
Arviat, on the western shore of Hudson Bay where about 2,800 people live, had 58 cases as of Friday. Dr. Michael Patterson, the territory’s chief public health officer, says it’s the only place where there’s evidence of transmission from household to household within the community.
There are also 13 cases in nearby Rankin Inlet, 11 in Whale Cove and two in Sanikiluaq. But those cases are all within the same households.
John Main, who represents Arviat-North and Whale Cove in Nunavut’s legislative assembly, says it’s “hard to see” how housing issues wouldn’t have contributed in some way to COVID-19’s rapid spread.
“It’s no secret that we’re in a housing crisis. We’ve had issues around housing for many, many years … Things like multiple generations of families living in one unit, people sleeping in areas that are not meant to be bedrooms,” Main says.
But Main says it’s not just housing that makes Nunavut more vulnerable to COVID-19. Food insecurity, a high unemployment rate and low educational attainment levels are all contributing factors, he says.
“We know that there’s all these things that are working against us, these things we have to battle alongside COVID now.”
Nunavut Housing Corp. figures show 56 per cent of Nunavut Inuit live in overcrowded homes. A recent report on Nunavut’s infrastructure gap from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. also notes 41 per cent of homes need major repairs.
Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist and health policy expert based in Winnipeg, says with a long incubation period, usually four to six days, it’s easy for an asymptomatic person to spread the virus without knowing they’re infected.