Fearing health staff shortages, Nunavut restricts COVID-19 testing

Residents without severe symptoms asked to stay home and avoid health centres, hospitals

Nunavut will begin using the Abbot ID Now rapid testing machine, a toaster-sized device that can do a COVID-19 test in 13 minutes or less, in communities where the virus already has a foothold. (Image courtesy of Abbot)

By Nunatsiaq News

Nunavut is changing how it tests for COVID-19, in a move aimed at curbing the spread of the virus to health-care workers.

“As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across Nunavut, we must make necessary changes to protect the continuity of health services in our territory,” Health Minister John Main said in a news release Thursday.

“We fully expect that COVID-19 will be in all our communities over the next month as travellers return to Nunavut. With that in mind, and recognizing there is a staffing shortage, we must manage our resources to balance COVID-19 response with Nunavummiut’s access to other essential health-care services.”

Effective immediately, rapid tests will be used to identify the spread of the virus from one household to another in communities with active COVID-19. These tests will be done with the Abbot ID Now testing machine, a toaster-sized device that can do a COVID-19 test in 13 minutes or less.

But the results of these rapid tests aren’t as reliable as PCR testing, which the territory has depended upon until this point.

PCR tests will now be reserved only to confirm the presence of the virus in new communities, in high-risk settings such as elders homes and other congregated facilities, and for those in critical service areas.

Once COVID-19 is in a home, testing will no longer be required to diagnose other household members. Anyone in the home with symptoms will be assumed to have COVID-19. The household will be considered cleared of active COVID-19 and off isolation once everyone has been asymptomatic for two to three days.

Those with COVID-19 symptoms are asked to not call or go to a health centre or hospital unless symptoms are severe or it’s an emergency, to help prevent outbreaks of the virus among staff.

“These changes will mean that official COVID-19 case counts in the territory will no longer reflect the total number of infections in our communities,” said Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson.

“We have seen how fast Omicron spreads and it is essential that all Nunavummiut follow public health restrictions and isolate when told to. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect our communities.”

Premier P.J. Akeeagok, Human Resources Minister Adam Arreak Lightstone and Patterson are holding a news conference this morning.

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Wait Until We’re Told? on

    What about household members that don’t have symptoms? Do they still not get tested? Do they stay at home or go to work?
    What about a worker who was in contact with a close contact of somebody that tested positive? They just go on as normal?
    It’s not very clear. Is the GN saying, “You’re gonna get sick, when you do, stay at home until you’re better. Until then, go to work”. If so, fine, but make it clear.

    • Posted by Hail Mary on

      It’s not hard to see that our Health Care system is beyond its capacity to keep track of what is happening. This is a bit of a hold the line and hope it works out strategy.

  2. Posted by WTH?? on

    While I appreciate our unique situation in Nunavut, the major control strategy in southern canada revolves around at home testing. Trudeau has clearly communicated that hundreds of thousands of at home rapid COVID tests have been sent to all provinces and territories. Why arent these being distributed and used by Nunavummiut to control spread? Why now the “no testing” protocol? How are we going to keep workers working and paid to feed their families. Not everyone works for the GN or have the ability to get paid sick days and anyone being forced to quarantine for 14 days in the event of close contact regardless of vaccination status is a serious burden to many families. Other jurisdictions have reduced quarantine times to between 5-10 days based on current medical information. Once again it looks like essential workers are going to carry the burden of this most current wave of infection for a government that was unable or unwilling to take the required actions to prevent exactly this situation. Now that Covids here we must learn to live with it.

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