Other COVID-19 cases in Nunavut linked to ongoing outbreak in Iqaluit

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IQALUIT, Nunavut — Nunavut's chief public health officer says there's a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission in Iqaluit and other Baffin communities after cases popped up in Kinngait this week.

Dr. Michael Patterson announced two cases late Monday in the community of about 1,500 people on the southern tip of Baffin Island, bringing the territory's total case count to 33.

There are 31 active cases of COVID-19 in Iqaluit, where the outbreak has shut all schools, non-essential businesses and workplaces.

Kinngait went into lock down Tuesday and will follow the same strict public health measures as Iqaluit. Travel to and from Kinngait is also restricted.

Patterson, who originally said the Kinngait cases were not related to the Iqaluit outbreak, said contact tracers have since found a direct link through close contact with a family member in Iqaluit.

He said at least one of the two people had symptoms and presented to the health centre in Kinngait.

"This demonstrates that there is increased risk of introducing COVID-19 to other communities in the Baffin region," he said.

Patterson said he's concerned because the number of contacts related to the territory's active cases is continuing to increase. So far, seven contacts have been found in Kinngait.

"These new cases in Kinngait cause concern that there is greater risk of transmission in Iqaluit," he said. "I strongly urge everyone to follow the public health measures, wear a mask in public and stay home as much as possible."

Patterson said the two Kinngait cases left Iqaluit before the first case in Iqaluit was diagnosed and there is no risk to others on that flight.

As of Monday, 366 people in Kinngait had received one dose of the Moderna vaccine and 267 people had two doses. Vaccines are still available in that community.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press