Feds sending 140,000 rapid tests to Nunavut 

Territorial government giving out another 16,000 self-test kits at airports

Three types of COVID-19 tests are currently being used in Nunavut, including rapid self-test kits, as seen here. (Photo by Annie Spratt/Unsplash)

By Mélanie Ritchot

The federal government is sending 140,000 COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to Nunavut, but there is no timeline for when they will arrive.

Last week, Canada’s health minister, Jean-Yves Duclos, said enough tests would be distributed to the provinces and territories for each person in Canada to do one rapid test per week in January.

The Nunavut Health Department is still waiting on details about the territory’s portion of those tests, said spokesperson Danarae Sommerville.

The expected shipment also doesn’t appear to include enough tests to fulfill Duclos’s promise in Nunavut. The territory’s population was around 38,780 in 2019, according Nunavut’s Bureau of Statistics’ most recent data.

This means the federal government would have to send more than 155,000 tests to give every resident four tests. Nunatsiaq News has reached out to Health Canada to ask for more details about the government’s distribution formula.

In the meantime, the territorial government does have some rapid antigen tests on hand.

Sommerville confirmed 16,000 kits are available to Nunavummiut travelling into the territory and between communities. These are being distributed at the airports in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Ottawa, Sanikiluaq, Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Yellowknife.

Since they’ve been obtained from a few different sources, Sommerville said it’s hard to say exactly how many rapid tests are currently in the territory.

Three types of COVID-19 tests being used in the territory:

  1. At-home rapid antigen tests: These are self-test kits that resemble a pregnancy test and can be done at home with a nasal swab. These are the ones being given out at airports, for example. The results are less reliable than PCR tests done in a lab but it only takes about 15 to 20 minutes to get results.
  2. Point-of-care rapid tests: These tests, such as the Panbio tests the GN has, are similar to the self-test kits but are done in health centres. Some are done with the Abbot ID Now testing machine, a toaster-sized device that gets results in under 13 minutes.
  3. Polymerase chain reaction tests (PCRs): These tests are done in a lab and provide the most reliable results. Until the current chain of outbreaks in Nunavut, the GN was relying on PCRs to test the population, which is why they were able to confirm more cases.

The Health Department also has a separate stock of boxes of Panbio and at-home rapid antigen tests that are being distributed to reduce the chance of outbreaks in workplaces.

Nunavut Health Minister John Main announced last week PCR tests are being rationed to prevent health-care workers from getting sick and are being reserved to confirm the presence of the virus in a new community, in high-risk settings like elders homes and for workers in critical service areas.

Rapid point-of care tests are being used to identify spread between households in communities where the presence of COVID-19 is already confirmed.

These tests are available at all health centres in Nunavut and if a confirmatory, or PCR, test is needed, swabs are sent to labs in Rankin Inlet or Iqaluit.

Only people with severe symptoms are advised to go to their local health centres to get tested, in an effort to reduce the risk of infecting already limited health-care staff.

In Iqaluit, five of eight lab technicians who process PCR tests quit their jobs in November and December, according to Francois de Wet, Qikiqtani General Hospital’s chief of staff.

Still, tests are being done within 24 hours of receipt at the Iqaluit lab, said Sommerville.

There are currently 30 vacant positions within public health and most public health employees have been working overtime since Omicron made its appearance in Nunavut, she said.

Many health workers have assumed different roles within the health-care system based on their skills, knowledge and training, to help meet the territory’s needs.

“Much of the health-care workforce ranging from frontline workers to administrative health staff are giving this outbreak their full attention,” she wrote.

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(4) Comments:

  1. Posted by Andy on

    Even though not determined when test kits will arrive, are there ny ideas about how the distribution will work? It states that the GN will give out another 16000 kits at airports. When were the previous 16000 distributed and where.
    Testing in Nunavut is extremely essentional, even though the regular test kits are not accurate. Imagine you are doing everything right, getting vaccinated, avoiding people, avoiding stores, having your masks on (if you can by N95 masks) and then you enter a Canadian North flight, The flight attendants are paying lots of attention that all passengers have their masks on and over their nose. UNTIL, they start serving food. Go figure, all of the carefulness for nothing. Anybody want to have a test kit? Yes, I do!!!

    • Posted by You Can Have My Test Kit on

      They say if we don’t test we don not have an accurate picture of Covid In Nunavut
      At they same time the say these test kits are unreliable. Daaaaaaaaa
      Canada’s Chief Medical Officer “Tamm” said its impossible to catch Covid on an Airplane. Now in Nunavut every week they are saying to isolate because some one on a Nunavut Airline had Covid. Daaaaaaaaa
      Getting an N95 mask has been nearly impossible for the past two years, so our governments solution is to wear two of the useless mask at the same time. Daaaaaaaa.
      The Government previously said kids are the “Super Spreaders” now we have vaccinated kids 5 and up, so who are they going to blame next..Daaaaaaaaa
      I have been vaccinated and boosted, and have no problem getting boosted again
      BUT enough is enough.
      The time is here to open everything back up and live with Covid, like we have done in the past with the N1H1, The Flu, and so on.

  2. Posted by De on

    If Laboratory Technicians were performing their PCR then there was already a problem. Only Medical Laboratory Technologists should be performing and reporting PCR testing.

  3. Posted by HR Questions on

    What are the reasons that 5 out 8 lab techs quit their jobs in such a short time period? Is anyone asking these questions?

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