A Nuuk super-spreader event underscores the need for COVID-19 booster shots, say Greenland health authorities

All of the attendees at the multiple-day meeting were vaccinated.

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People queue to get tested during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Nuuk, Greenland on September 8, 2021. (Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters)

A multiple-day meeting in Nuuk last week is being described by Greenland health authorities as a COVID-19 super-spreader event after it resulted in cases of the illness now being found in all five of the country’s local administrative districts.

The announcement on Tuesday came as health authorities said the event, which also spread COVID-19 to Denmark, was likely the cause of many of the 26 new cases identified amongst the 526 people who were tested on Monday. That’s the largest single-day increase in the number of new daily cases in Greenland since the pandemic began.

Overall, the number of active cases in Greenland is down from its peak of more than 100 at the end of last month. But after falling to 58 at the start of October, it’s now risen to 81.

Yesterday’s cases bring the seven-day weekly average for new cases to 13. That is one of the highest levels since the pandemic began and it could rise in the coming days as the more cases stemming from the Nuuk event emerge.

The rise comes as the uncontrolled spread of the virus in Nuuk and Sisimiut already had health officials urging people to take measures to protect others, including testing, isolation and vaccination.

Like colds and flus, COVID can be expected to spread more quickly during winter months, according to Paneeraq Noahsen, a doctor with Nunatsinni Nakorsaaneqarfik, the office of the chief medical officer.

The emergence of new variants of the virus, coupled with declining protection from vaccinations, makes it likely that more breakthrough cases will be seen in the coming months, Noahsen told the broadcaster KNR.

Greenland’s vaccination rate of 66 percent is on par with most of western Europe, and, like many other countries, Greenland has already begun offering people over 65 a booster shot.

Health officials expect to offer be able to extend the offer to all residents starting next year, but preventing new outbreaks will require it to increase its overall vaccination rate, according to Henrik L. Hansen, the chief medical officer.

He has previously warned that as long as there are unvaccinated adults and children, new cases can be expected, but the emergence of breakthrough cases underscored the need for a booster program, Noahsen told KNR.