Latest COVID-19 case raises concerns over Nunavik’s protocols for out-of-region workers

Kativik Ilisarniliriniq says it’s investigating how an infected worker was permitted to fly to Salluit

Kativik Ilisarniliriniq says it’s investigating how a construction worker infected with COVID-19 was permitted to fly to Salluit last week. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

A construction worker who arrived in Nunavik last weekend infected with COVID-19 has now left the region, but the incident has raised concerns over protocols for workers visiting the region.

Five contractors arrived in Salluit on July 10 to work on construction projects for Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, the regional school board.

The workers reportedly took COVID-19 tests before boarding a flight north, one of which was confirmed positive. The infected worker was intercepted at the Salluit airport upon his arrival and put into isolation.

Nunatsiaq News has not confirmed test results for the remaining four workers, but all five people were flown out of the region on July 14 and 15, the Northern Village said this week.

“We are currently investigating the matter to confirm facts and will take the appropriate measures,” Kativik Ilisarniliriniq Director General Harriet Keleutak said in a statement emailed to Nunatsiaq News.

“Our priority is to protect Nunavimmiut by ensuring that the school board, its employees and its contractors follow the applicable health protocols and guidelines.”

The Nunavik Regional Emergency Preparedness Advisory Committee (N-REPAC) re-opened the construction sector in the region on July 6, putting in place requirements for out-of-region contractors to ensure their employees are quarantined and tested.

Contractors are asked to read and sign a protocol for their employees coming to work in Nunavik.

But that protocol, prepared by the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, shows that workers are not actually required to complete their 14-day quarantine before they arrive in the region.

“Workers coming to Nunavik should preferably undergo a pre-departure quarantine,” the protocol states. “When this is not possible, the quarantine period will need to be done in the North.”

“Workers may perform their duties while quarantined, in which case maximum measures are implemented to reduce the risk of transmission,” it states. “They must remain in quarantine outside of their work hours. The mandatory quarantine period is 14 days, but it may be split up between quarantine time in the South and in the North.”

In the case of the work crew in Salluit, the Northern Village determined the infected worker travelled directly from one job site in southern Quebec to Nunavik.

But the NV said it’s unclear how he was able to board a flight without having first confirmed his test result.

As of July 14, pre-departure testing is mandatory for all Nunavik-bound construction workers. The testing is now available at the Montreal airport.

All workers need to be tested once again seven days after arrival in the Nunavik communities, the protocol states.

But the case in Salluit suggests the regulations aren’t doing enough to keep COVID-19 out of the region.

Officials in Salluit said a lack of clarity within the region’s protocols is putting community members at risk and creating tense encounters between residents and visitors to the region.

“We understand the level of fear and preoccupation from the population in the community and the region as a whole,” the health board said in a July 15 statement.

“We would like to reassure everyone that our goal is to maintain Nunavik COVID-19 free.

“We must not feed nor encourage stigmatization and hurtful negativity regarding COVID-19 towards any member of the community and essential workers. We must practice mutual respect because we are all in this together, and together, we will get through it.”

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by They left the area on

    The infected worker not only travelled north, but as the confirmed case was revealed, that worker was again permitted to travel south. So, people that are confirmed infected can travel, according to this.

    • Posted by Stephen Grasser on

      The worker was not “permitted” to fly south. He was taken out on a special medical charter.

      • Posted by Yes Stephen on

        First and foremost, he still flew out on a flight, pilots beware. And why did he fly out anyway? He didn’t need medical care down south or did he ? Would the same arrangement be made for Inuit in reverse, giving all the circumstances of not a medical emergency, just test positive and want to go home? You see something is still a missed here.

      • Posted by Beamed out on

        What difference really? He was still allowed to board a flight. Unless it was a medivac, why did he get a charter of a medical nature? Just curious. In all thats going on, this is unusual. No one, I mean no one is allowed to board any flight to go anywhere, if they’re positive. Unless being taken to an emergency setting, like hospital icu.

  2. Posted by Was it a charter? on

    Was it a charter flight that took these 5 people out of the area? One on them which was positive for covid-19. Or was it a regular flight? How do an infected person get on any flight?

  3. Posted by Reassuring on

    They keep stressing in their defence that they want to reassure us that the goal is to keep the covid-19 out of Nunavik. I mean we know already that’s their goal, but we want to know why it’s still getting in via people not following the quarantine protocol.

    • Posted by john on

      Its easy to understand if you’ve gone thru the system of flying north. As of July 10 this was the case.
      First, there is no mandatory protocol requirement for quarantining for 14 days before travelling north.
      Second, charter flights appear to have free reign over where they fly and who they take with them. Passengers do not need to provide any documentation themselves to anybody during the flight.
      Third and most damaging is the FACT that test results are not needed before you fly and the reason for this is clear……you must take a covid -19 test with 72 hours of departure before being permitted to fly and when you are tested they provide you with a letter proving you took the test BUT given the short delay before flying you might not receive you test results before you actually get on the aircraft headed north. Therefore the risk of having an asymptomatic Covid+ passenger aboard any aircraft headed north is a grim reality.
      The only way to minimize risk to NUNAVIK is (beyond what is already in place –

      1) change the method for releasing test results to match the 72 hour window for testing-flying by making delivery faster. Making it mandatory that all passengers have their test result notice with them and presented before boarding ANY aircraft headed north.
      STOP charter airlines from flying north unless they comply with all protocol rules.
      INSPECT ALL aircraft upon arrival to Nunavik airports to be certain the paperwork for passengers and onboard seating arrangement is according to covid regulations (by the way the charter aircraft that arrived on the fateful day this last Covid + worker arrived in Salluit rearranged the seating arrangement to accommodate for the excessive baggage brought aboard by some of the workers.

    • Posted by John on

      The infected worker did follow protocol ! Anybody can fly north in a charter aircraft or with AIL as long as they first get tested which means an AIL aircraft full of people could be transporting a plane full of asymptotic positive cases without knowing because nobody has received their test results before flying
      If you don’t have symptoms then how do you know you are Covid+ ?

  4. Posted by KI, the sensible one on

    KI always takes the lead to get things right in Nunavik.
    Makivik looks like a fool once again

  5. Posted by K what? on

    Hope they get the school thing right as well. KI is trying to correct what it didn’t do in the first place.

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