The COVID-19 Pandemic has been spreading around the world since the end of December, but it only was detected in Nunavik on March 28. The first case was an individual in Salluit who has since recovered. Nunavik leaders and officials have been working tirelessly to help contain the virus and keep the population safe. The situation is constantly changing, but the main advice to stop the spread has remained the same: Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds, when outside stay at least 2 metres away from others, and stay home as much as possible.
Following are some of the actions that have been taken to protect Nunavimmiut:
Various stakeholders in Nunavik met on March 17 as KRG activated a Nunavik Regional Emergency Preparedness Advisory Committee (NREPAC) in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Committee stems from the Civil Protection Act and was created in compliance with the
regulations that oversee civil security and public emergencies in Quebec. The initial meeting was held under the supervision of the KRPF’s Chief of Police and Director of Public Security, Jean-Pierre Larose. The Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) was called upon to play a key role in setting up the emergency response unit to the pandemic. Canadian North and Air Inuit airlines were invited as special participants.
Public Told Not to Come
Makivvik President Charlie Watt announced on March 17 that Nunavik leaders were telling people not come to the region unless absolutely necessary. The two northern airlines owned by Makivvik, Air Inuit and Canadian North, also reduced service to Nunavik due to the virus. People returning from travel outside of Canada were advised to quarantine themselves in a southern location for 14 days before returning to Nunavik.
Screening Process Implemented
On March 21, Makivvik implemented a three-question screening process at Trudeau International Airport in Dorval for passengers travelling to Nunavik on Makvik-owned airlines Air Inuit or Canadian North. Working in collaboration with the NRBHSS, a Makivvik representative, NRBHSS nurse, and Inuk interpreter were on site to greet passengers before going to the check-in counter. If the passenger had travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days, had been in contact with anyone in that same time period who was known to have COVID-19, or had shown symptoms of the virus in the past 24 hours, they were refused check-in and provided assistance from the NRBHSS and Makivvik. A Makivvik representative was at the airport to help make arrangements for a 14-day self-quarantine period at a nearby hotel, with an allocation for meals for Inuit beneficiaries paid for by Makivvik. Reimbursement will be sought from the governments of Canada and Quebec at a later stage.
Curfew in Communities
On March 29, Director of Public Security, Jean-Pierre Larose, announced that all Nunavimmiut need to stay at home from 9 PM until 6 AM. On April 15, the curfew was shifted to 10 PM. The curfew will remain in effect in all 14 communities for an indefinite period of time.
Public Health Director, Dr. Marie Rochette, and the Director of Public Security, Jean-Pierre Larose, under the NREPAC, announced a region-wide lockdown as of April 3, cancelling regular flights in and out of Nunavik, as well as between communities until further notice. The only flights allowed are charters transporting cargo (including medical supplies and Canada Post), patients travelling for medical appointments, health care workers and other critical workers such as police officers. Upon returning to the region, everyone has to self-isolate for 14 days.
Nunavik Leaders Group
The first meeting to establish the Nunavik Leaders Group (NLG) was held Friday April 3, via teleconference. Comprised of presidents and executives of relevant organizations, (Makivvik, KRG, NRBHSS, and KI), the group will meet twice a week and remain active for as long as the members deem it necessary. The new group will provide a unified front to address issues faced by Nunavik Inuit, and make policy decisions, in close collaboration with the NREPAC. The mandate of the NLG includes making decisions regarding the use of funding that will be made available to the region in dealing with the pandemic.
At the request of the Director of Public Security, Jean-Pierre Larose, it was announced on April 3 that Nunavik’s Canadian Rangers were deployed in the region’s 14 communities as part of the effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The NREPAC, under the leadership of the KRG Civil Security requested the deployment of the Rangers to help local emergency response teams coordinate the fight against the virus.
KRG Food coupons
On April 7, KRG announced eligible applicants will receive food coupon vouchers every two weeks, retroactive to March 13, 2020. The vouchers are issued by the KRG and are intended for those who are no longer employed due to COVID-19, those receiving no salary, or just part of their salary, or no income support benefits. It is also meant for those who saw their financial obligations increased, for example, by taking care of elders or families. The program will end June 30, or when the emergency measures are lifted. KRG is also issuing Elders’ Food Lists to local stores. The measure is delivered monthly and is meant for elders without steady income. Elders can call their local store manager with their order, which will be picked up by local store truck or Rangers and delivered to the elder, or they can ask a family member to get the groceries for them. That program is slated to end June 17, or when emergency measures are lifted.