Nunavut government gives COVID-19 rapid tests to critical businesses
Premier couldn’t say whether everyone will have access to rapid tests
Critical business workers in Iqaluit, such as taxi drivers, grocery store employees, emergency home repair workers and airport maintenance staff have begun receiving rapid tests for COVID-19.
The Department of Economic Development and Transportation has been distributing them since Feb. 10, Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok said Tuesday during the territory’s weekly COVID-19 press conference.
“The reason why we’ve focused so heavily in terms of the critical service providers is exactly that — they provide such critical services to keeping our communities safe,” he said. “As we receive more [rapid tests] from the Government of Canada, we will expand distribution to all businesses that want them.”
Akeeagok could not say when or if the general public would have access to rapid tests, but he said that conversations about this are ongoing. Akeeagok also said he was unsure of exactly how many rapid tests the Nunavut government received from the federal government.
In January, the federal government announced it was sending 140,000 rapid tests to Nunavut.
The rapid tests are being distributed at a time when chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson is easing restrictions across the territory and positive COVID-19 cases have dropped by 125 in one day.
There are 352 active COVID-19 cases in Nunavut.
The bulk of these cases are in Iqaluit, which has 113, while Rankin Inlet has 45, Igloolik has 39 and Taloyoak has 25.
Patterson said Tuesday that the Health Department continues to send most of the COVID-19 tests for whole genome sequencing, which can identify the variant of coronavirus.
“Of those that are identifiable, more than 90 per cent are the Omicron variant,” he said, later adding that the other 10 per cent is the Delta variant, mostly found in Iqaluit and Pangnirtung.
Justice Minister David Akeeagok said three jails in the territory currently have COVID-19 outbreaks. The Aaqqigiarvik Correctional Healing Facility has eight active cases, while the Rankin Inlet Healing Facility and the Nunavut Women Correctional Centre have two active cases, he said.
Akeeagok said at Aaqqigiarvik, seven of the eight active cases are employees, and he called for anyone with training in corrections to apply for jobs with the Justice Department.
Elders homes across the territory are staying relatively safe from COVID-19.
There is one COVID-19 case among residents at the Igloolik elders home and one active case among staff at both the Arviat and Cambridge Bay elders homes, according to Health Department spokesperson Chris Puglia.
There are no cases at the Gjoa Haven or Iqaluit elders homes, he said.
Here is the list of COVID-19 case counts from Tuesday:
Arctic Bay — 1
Arviat — 18
Baker Lake — 12
Cambridge Bay — 15
Coral Harbour — 9
Igloolik — 39
Iqaluit — 113
Kinngait — 13
Kugaaruk — 15
Naujaat — 2
Pangnirtung — 9
Rankin Inlet — 45
Resolute Bay — 11
Sanikiluaq — 12
Sanirajak — 13
Taloyoak — 25