Sweta Tiwari, Andrey N. Petrov, Michele Devlin, Mark Welford, Nikolay Golosov, John DeGroote, Tatiana Degai & Stanislav Ksenofontov

Background: The Arctic communities are socially vulnerable, yet they also have enormous inherent resilience and adaptive capacities leading to low COVID-19 mortality rates (except for Northern Russia) compared to their national counterparts. Thus, a conventional vulnerability approach to understanding pandemic risks across the Arctic seems insufficient. This study considers vulnerability and resilience as separate but interrelated and complementary facets of a risk assessment. Based on this premise, this study introduces a pandemic vulnerability-resilience framework that synthesizes underlying factors defining the Arctic communities’ susceptibility and ability to cope with and recover from disease outbreaks.

Methods: In particular, using North West Territories (NWT) communities as an example, we developed the pandemic vulnerability-resilience framework considering its communities’ vulnerability and resilience features.

Results: We found that highly vulnerable Indigenous communities ranked medium or high in resilience, whereas low-resilient non-Indigenous communities ranked low in vulnerability. The primary sources of resilience to a pandemic in remote Indigenous communities are traditional country food, the strength of knowledge systems, and geographic isolation. With respect to vulnerability, these communities are often found to be vulnerable in socioeconomic, demographic, housing, and transportation domains.

Conclusion: High-resilience communities, even though highly vulnerable, have capacities to cope with or recover from the pandemic. Low-resilience communities will be less impacted by a pandemic only if they are low in vulnerability. Considering either vulnerabilities or resilience would result in the misallocation of resources thus this study recommends a combined assessment of both. Thus, the proposed pandemic vulnerability-resilience framework enables community leaders and/or government officials at different levels to identify the indicators which are below par or thresholds and plan interventions accordingly.

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Thomas Fisher & Theona Morrison

This article strongly evidences the need to transform narratives and perspectives on rural, island and indigenous communities, and the many elements for such transformation that are already in place. We start by summarising extensive research conducted during COVID-19 on communities across the Northern Periphery and Arctic that turned what are often regarded as the challenges of peripherality to their advantage as resilience factors. In the process, they challenged many economic frameworks that have long dominated development policy for ‘remote’ regions. We then examine emerging research on dominant paradigms that are driving responses to the climate and biodiversity emergencies. Once again, these paradigms are often not rooted in the lived experience and (inherited) knowledge of local peoples and communities, who manage the vast majority of our natural assets. This leads to the wrong ‘solutions’ which can directly threaten rural, island and indigenous communities while not delivering positive outcomes for the climate and biodiversity. The call to “redefine peripherality” is backed by extensive evidence, and makes a series of recommendations for a more integrated, holistic and sustainable approach to peripheral communities, building on their many assets, strengths and resources. Likewise, many voices, from local communities to international bodies, are calling for more effective responses to the climate and biodiversity emergencies that incorporate the worldviews of indigenous peoples and local communities who have so much to contribute.

Transforming dominant narratives cannot happen until we genuinely listen and respond to the voices of rural, island and indigenous peoples within the Arctic and beyond.

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David Chapman, Jennie Sjöholm, Sandra Zetterkvist & Agneta Larsson

From March 2020, regulations and recommendations were implemented in Sweden to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which included limitations to public life. Overall, these sought to reduce activities that brought people together and in so doing, transitioned the relationship between cities and people into a new paradigm.

The study explores public usage of an Arctic city during the pandemic to understand how COVID-19 altered people’s ‘social life’. Data was collected in the Arctic city of Luleå, by structured questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. These indicate that: 1) a significant reduction in city visits, 2) multi-faceted city visits were reduced to single task based visits, 3) a significant reduction in leisure based activities, 4) an increase in digitalization of work, retail and leisure activities, 5) perceptions of responsibility, guilt, boredom and minimizing social networks were reported, and 6) post-pandemic, people questioned the ability of cities to bounce back.

The survey and interviews show that in the Arctic city of Luleå, restrictions put in place to reduce spread of the infection had a significant impact on public life and use of the public realm, which is in accordance with research from outside the Arctic.

The conclusion is that in the short term, the role of urban centres in daily life was reduced and the role of digitalisation for work, goods and services was rapidly advanced. However, the research also shows that the ‘social dimension’ of Arctic cities - to see other people and take part of civic life on site - was not easy to replace and is valued by the community.

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Vigdis Nygaard & Larissa Riabova

This commentary presents the results of a study on volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic in two neighbouring regions in the Arctic –– Troms og Finnmark county in Norway and Murmansk oblast in Russia. Our research shows that volunteering is one of the most efficient crisis response tools and that it adds indispensable value to reducing the workload of public health and social care institutions in promoting health and well-being for vulnerable groups. In both Norway and Russia, responses to the pandemic included the rise of the volunteer movement, but volunteering has different traditions and scopes in the two countries. Established NGOs in Troms og Finnmark ounty took on new responsibilities for vulnerable groups. Such organizations were less developed in Murmansk oblast, and new volunteer structures in the form of united regional and municipal volunteer centres were quickly established in addition to existing organizations.

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Liris P.R. Smith, Mark R. Christopher & Michelle D. Leach

Across Canada, and the world, frontline health care (HC) workers have faced adversity and challenges in delivering quality services during the COVID-19 pandemic. In northern, rural, and remote areas of Canada, these challenges have been amplified due to limited financial and human resources. The demand for services with an increase in cases/waves of COVID-19 has pushed a struggling system to the brink. The purpose of this study was to determine how COVID-19 has contributed to frontline HC worker burnout in the Yukon. A total of 141 regulated HC workers (physicians and nurses) completed the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory, formatted as an online survey, to measure workplace exhaustion across three categories: personal, work- and client-related. Data was analysed by gender, work location and profession. In relation to personal burnout, over half of the respondents in this study reported feeling tired, worn out, physically and emotionally exhausted. Approximately two-thirds of respondents experienced work-related burnout of emotional exhaustion and feeling worn-out at the end of the workday. In contrast, when surveyed about client-related burnout, respondents were less likely to report being tired of working with clients or finding it hard or frustrating to work with clients. The HC workforce is the foundation of a safe and effective HC system. These findings can inform decision-makers and employers on the need to mitigate workplace stress. Supporting HC workers is necessary for maintaining the quality of current and future health service delivery in the Yukon. Without them there is no system to deliver care.

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Lena Maria Nilsson, Miguel San Sebastian & Jon Petter A Stoor

There is an international concern that the COVID-19 pandemic could have had serious effects on Indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and health. To our knowledge, no research has been published regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of the Sámi people. The aim of this study is to assess the health care and social experience of the pre-vaccine phase of the COVID-19 pandemic among the Sámi, in comparison with the national population, in Sweden.

Two population-based surveys, in the Sámi and the Swedish populations, were conducted between February and May 2021. In addition to sociodemographic and health information, a questionnaire regarding the health experience of COVID-19 designed by the Public Health Agency of Sweden was included. Both surveys targeted individuals aged 18–84 years and the participation rate was 40.9% in the Sámi study and 44.3% in the national study.

Based on the data collected, Sámi in Sweden seem to have been affected in a similar or even in a milder way than the national population during the pre-vaccine phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Further studies are needed to explore the distribution of these outcomes among different Sámi subgroups. Register studies are also needed to evaluate the clinical (morbidity and mortality) impact of COVID-19 in the Sámi population.

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