March 17, 2020 – Kuujjuaq, Nunavik – Leaders in Nunavik are literally closing the border to Nunavik in response to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and are telling people not to visit the communities unless it’s absolutely necessary. The two northern airlines owned by Makivik Corporation – Air Inuit and Canadian North – will also be reducing service to the Arctic by as much as 50% or more due to the Coronavirus. People returning from travel outside of Canada are being advised to quarantine themselves in a southern location for 14 days before returning to the Arctic regions in Nunavik
The airlines say medical and cargo services will not be affected, food and cargo will continue to move throughout the airline routes. The seven-day-a-week service by Canadian North from Kuujjuaq to Montreal will be reduced to four days a week and reviewed frequently. Air Inuit will take similar measures on its passenger service in the Ungava and Hudson regions of Nunavik and is working closely with its stakeholders
“The leaders of all the Nunavik organizations have been meeting and communicating on a regular basis and have channeled our discussions through the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Services which is leading our efforts,” said Charlie Watt. “We know the painful history of epidemics that have ravaged across the small Arctic communities over the years. Our elders remember the scourge of Tuberculosis, as well as the rapid spread of German measles that killed many Inuit in the 1950s. Taking immediate action to essentially close the Arctic is important to protect our population from this new virus.”
Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) has been keeping the Nunavik population informed through its website and Facebook pages about the virus and how to stay safe, in Inuktitut, English and French.
Makivik President, meanwhile, praised Québec Premier François Legault for his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. “He’s been vigilant and consistent in the manner he has handled the crisis from the start,” said Charlie Watt “We applaud Premier Legault’s leadership to protect the citizens of Quebec and the measures he has imposed to mitigate the social and economic impact of the pandemic on our province.”
Watt reiterated the fact that major gatherings in Nunavik are cancelled for the foreseeable future, notably the Makivik Annual General Meeting scheduled for the end of the month in Akulivik. Schools and daycare centres are now closed in Nunavik and Makivik Offices are closed until further notice.