Lorne Kusugak said if people living in Arviat follow isolation rules, the outbreak could be over in two weeks.
The community of about 2,800 on the western edge of Hudson Bay is under a full lockdown, with schools and businesses closed and travel restricted. It is the only community in Nunavut with active infections.
Sixteen new cases were announced Friday, bringing the total number of active cases there to 56.
People who are isolating in Arviat are getting tired, Kusugak said, and they need the community to work together to bring case numbers down.
“They too want to go out. They too want to visit. But they cannot until everybody stops visiting and not wearing masks and breaking the rules,” an emotional Kusugak, his voice shaking, told a press conference.
“If you would listen for two weeks, this could all go away. This is so preventable. Just listen.”
Kusugak warned residents that even if people seem healthy, they can still be carrying the virus.
“You know who you are. If you’ve been told … that you’ve tested positive, please stop people in your house from visiting.”
He said Arviammiut have endured a lot of hardship over the years. “Some of it a lot harder than what they’re going through right now.”
“They overcame all those obstacles. You can overcome this.”
Premier Joe Savikataaq said the territory is to get the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine early in the new year.
He said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has assured him Nunavut will get enough doses to vaccinate 75 per cent of the population over the age of 18.
“We are working hard to develop our rollout plan and the logistics and the human resources necessary to administer the vaccine,” the premier said.
Elders and health-care workers will be prioritized, he added.
The Moderna vaccine has yet to be approved by Health Canada.
Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, also said one Nunavut resident has tested positive for COVID-19 in a rapid testing program at a Winnipeg isolation hotel.
Anyone who leaves Nunavut must isolate for 14 days in a hotel in southern Canada before flying back to the territory.
Nunavut’s first cases of COVID-19 in early November came from people who had completed isolation in Winnipeg before travelling home.
© 2020 The Canadian Press