The world people woke up to this week is a very different one than last.
Parks, pools, schools, restaurants and everything in between will be closed or nearly empty as the world battens down the hatches and braces itself for the spread of COVID-19.
Thankfully, at least by press time, the territory has no cases of the virus, but that could change by the time you read this editorial and some think it is only a matter of time before cases are reported in Nunavut as the virus spreads like a hot flame through kindling.
This is a time where extreme caution must be used and the advice from public health officials must be followed.
Health Minister George Hickes has declared a public health emergency in Nunavut and that only goes to show the seriousness of the situation.
These times are trying and will test Nunavummiut like they have not been tested before, especially considering how central community is to them.
In a place where the wounds of tuberculosis and RSV are still fresh and still affecting many, no chances can be taken.
There are a lot of factors that will contribute to danger that this virus presents to Nunavummiut, from underlying health issues, to poverty to overcrowding in homes.
It is paramount that precautions be taken and everyone pays special attention to sanitation and social isolation practices.
That means no large feasts or gatherings, physically distancing yourself from Elders or those with underlying health issues when possible, self-isolating if you’ve travelled recently or are showing symptoms, washing hands and coughing and sneezing into your elbow.
Recently Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) issued a news release that called for the federal government to consider the Inuit as “a special, high-risk group in federal resource planning.”
The federal government absolutely must give special consideration to the vulnerable Inuit population.
ITK is correct for pointing out that a lot of Inuit families will have a hard time stocking up on basic goods due to high levels of food insecurity. Due to limited infrastructure and a reliance on southern medical centres, staff and labs, it is not a stretch of the imagination to think it will be extremely difficult to isolate and treat the virus should it enter the communities.
Special attention, not just paltry sums of emergency federal funding split between three territories, will be required to keep Inuit safe.
The chances of repeating the mistakes of the past, like the handling of influenza or small pox, are high and history will harshly judge Canada if Nunavut is forced to endure a disproportionate impact from COVID-19.
We are all in this together. It will take nothing short of a war-time effort and personal sacrifice to ensure the safety of ourselves and our loved ones.
Nunavut News will be diligently reporting on all the information Nunavummiut need to know about COVID-19 and all that develops. We are suspending the print edition after this one but we will be publishing the newspaper in PDF format on our website at nunavutnews.com along with all the latest news.
Stay safe and take care of each other.