Iqaluit’s microbiology lab is closed following the departure of several lab technicians in late November and early December of 2021, with managers and directors at Qikiqtani General Hospital still looking for a qualified replacement.

“A number of the staff who left are people who had the specialized skills in keeping a number of the microbiology tests going,” said Nunavut’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson.

As a result testing samples are being sent down south.

The federal government is providing three additional nurses and nine contact tracers to assist in Nunavut’s latest wave of Covid-19, announced Premier P.J. Akeeagok, during a Government of Nunavut Covid-19 update on Jan. 18. The nurses are expected to arrive in the near future, while the additional contact tracing staff are already working remotely down south.

While all help is appreciated, it still doesn’t get to the root of the problem says Akeeagok, namely the overcrowded housing which continues to be a problem Inuit face in the territory.

“The housing gap and overcrowded communities continue to escalate the spread of Covid-19 and tuberculosis in Nunavut,” said Akeeagok.

There are 177 confirmed active cases in Nunavut. Although the number is considered to be higher with recent testing protocol changes prioritizing new communities and higher risk settings such as hospitals and Elders homes.

John Main, Nunavut’s minister of health, announced that two staff members at the Gjoa Haven continuing care centre tested positive for Covid-19 on Jan. 13.

“So far none of the nine Elders there have tested positive and have not shown signs of symptoms,” said Main.

All Nunavummiut Elders at Ottawa’s Embassy West retirement home have fully recovered from Covid-19. Four Nunavut caregivers are present at Embassy West, with another from the territory expected to arrive later this week.

The Elders at the Arviat continuing care facility are still Covid-free with no new infections introduced among the staff. Additional personal protective equipment such as visors and N95 masks have been sent.

There have been 10 hospitalizations and one death in this outbreak thus far.

Expired tests still good to use; antiviral drug approved

Despite some rapid antigen tests being given out past the labeled expiration date, it is still a reliable test said Dr. Patterson.

“Health Canada has been monitoring those tests and has officially extended their shelf-life. So even though the tests are printed as having expired they are still reliable and perfectly acceptable for Nunavummiut to use,” said Patterson.

The Government of Canada has approved an antiviral pill by Pfizer to treat patients with Covid-19, announced Jan. 17, and it is expected to ship all over Canada, including to Nunavut.

“Our understanding is as shipments arrive it will be distributed to each jurisdiction in proportion to the size of the population,” Patterson said, “initially the size is going to be small.”

The pill is for people who already have Covid-19 and is meant to mitigate and reduce the chances of severe complications such as death and hospitalizations.

The Department of Culture and Heritage also revealed the latest Government of Nunavut initiative to provide $375,000 in Covid-19 supports to support community radios during the pandemic. Each station will be eligible for $15,000.

“Community radios are a lifeline in our territory helping, disseminating and providing essential health information,” said Akeeagok.

People can contact the Dept. of Culture and Heritage for more information.

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