The Canadian Coast Guard is planning to keep interaction with Nunavummiut to a bare minimum this summer due to the threat of Covid-19.
The Coast Guard has cancelled all non-essential activities such as community visits, exercises, open houses and tours of Coast Guard ships for the season.
The Coast Guard’s Nunavut-based operations comprise Marine Communications and Traffic Services in Iqaluit and the inshore rescue boat station in Rankin Inlet. The latter went into service for 2020 as of Wednesday while the Arctic ice-breaking season spans June 22 into September.
The crews staffing the Rankin Inlet inshore rescue boat station – comprising Indigenous post-secondary students trained by Coast Guard – self-isolated for 14 days in Winnipeg prior to heading north for duty. The Coast Guard has also committed to daily health monitoring including temperature checks for Rankin Inlet staff.
Crew members aboard Arctic icebreakers, who will be departing from Quebec City, will be tested for Covid-19 first. On board the vessels, there will be enhanced sanitization – cleaning every two hours – and crew members will practise social distancing. For example, meals will be eaten in staggered shifts rather than all at the same time.
Masks, gloves, suits and other personal protective equipment will be kept on board and there will be medical staff travelling with the crew.
If any crew members developed Covid-19, they would be isolated to protect the other crew, said Neil O’Rourke, assistant commissioner, Arctic region.
Chris Henderson, the Coast Guard’s deputy commissioner of operations, added, “To re-emphasize, the Coast Guard has had no cases of Covid and we have maintained our operational posture uninterrupted since the pandemic began. So since mid-March we’ve been operating safely and securely with the health and safety of our crews at the top of our minds. This is really a question of a vital mission, which is Arctic resupply, and we need to ensure the integrity of that mission.”
Last season, Rankin Inlet’s in-shore rescue boat station provided 74 days of service to the region, and travelled 1,003 kilometres during on-water patrols, according to the Coast Guard.