Iqaluit declares state of emergency

Iqaluit declares state of emergency

Iqaluit City Council has declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak that arrived in the capital of Nunavut more than two weeks ago.

The statement, adopted unanimously by councilors in an emergency meeting on Monday afternoon, follows last week’s announcement that community transmission of the virus was taking place in the city.

“We brought forward the motion specifically to uphold the fact that this is an emergency,” said Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell.

“We want to make sure that citizens understand that this is a very serious event happening here and we need everyone to listen to the orders of the chief of public health.

The statement comes as Prime Minister Joe Savikataaq reported eight new cases and three recoveries in the capital on Monday morning.

There are now 81 active COVID-19 cases in Iqaluit, a number that nearly doubled last week.

The state of emergency, which goes into effect Tuesday at midnight, will give the city access to “limited authorities” under the territory’s emergency measures law.

Coun. Kyle Sheppard, who introduced the motion to declare a state of emergency at Monday’s meeting, later tweeted a section of the law that lists the powers it gives the municipality. They include the implementation of the city’s emergency management program, the acquisition of goods needed during the emergency, the construction of works or the demolition of structures.

Bell also added that it gives the city additional powers.

“City enforcement is already enforcing CPHA ordinances, but it gives us a little more power to do so and allows for the appointment of additional staff as officers to help with compliance,” he said.

Bell added that the statement means city staff can be referred to other things to help in the community amid the emergency.

He also expressed gratitude that staff were able to do this as needed throughout the pandemic.

As part of Monday’s motion, council also appointed the city’s executive director, Amy Elgersma, as the city’s emergency management coordinator.

The council’s decision came as the impact of the epidemic continues to spread. Over the weekend, the low-barrier Iqaluit shelter, which is run by the Uqutaaq company, was forced to close due to a staff shortage related to COVID.

“All four of the staff are in COVID isolation, with a positive test,” Laurel McCorriston, executive director of the Uquutaq Company, wrote on Facebook Sunday afternoon.

When asked if the city’s declaration of emergency would help the shelter reopen, Bell was unsure, although he stressed the importance of the service he provides.

According to McCorriston, there have been discussions between the shelter and the Department of Family Services about the possibility of additional help.

However, these people would need training and McCorriston said there was currently no one available to train them.

When asked if the staff shortage could extend to the company’s 60-bed shelter and halfway house, Ms McCorriston said that while it was possible, she did not foresee it.

In addition to Monday’s statement, Bell also said the city of Iqaluit’s COVID-19 task force, which was established over a year ago at the start of the pandemic, continues to meet all both days.

The meetings allow the various departments of the city to provide regular updates and, in the event of a problem, to find solutions.

To date, 1,533 tests have been completed in Iqaluit. Of these, 125, or about 8%, were positive.

Meanwhile, across the territory, there are still two active cases of COVID-19 in Rankin Inlet and two in Kinngait.
For up-to-date information and resources on COVID-19, visit the Government of Nunavut website.
The next government update on COVID-19 will take place on Tuesday, May 4 at 11 a.m. EST.


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