Nunavut to deploy COVID-19 testing devices in 5 more hamlets

Health Department looks at Abbott ID NOW device

Premier Joe Savikataaq announced Friday that Colleen Stockley will return as deputy minister of health, while Kyle Seeley will become deputy minister of community and government services. (File photo)

By Jim Bell

Nunavut’s Department of Health plans to deploy a new rapid-testing device for COVID-19 in five communities, the deputy minister of health, Ruby Brown, told MLAs Thursday at a committee of the whole meeting.

The Government of Nunavut plans to use the Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 testing device, seen here, in Arviat, Gjoa Haven, Igloolik, Sanikiluaq and Cambridge Bay. (Photo courtesy of Abbott Laboratories)

Those communities are Arviat, Gjoa Haven, Igloolik, Sanikiluaq and Cambridge Bay, and the testing device they’ll be getting is called the Abbott ID NOW, Brown said.

“Those are the communities that, based on the travel routes and everything, could use that machine,” Brown said.

According to Abbott Laboratories, the device’s manufacturer, the ID NOW device can do a COVID-19 test in 13 minutes or less.

But it’s also less reliable than the Biofire and GeneXpert devices located in Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit, Brown said. The Health Department uses those devices to test nasal swabs taken from Nunavut residents, which are then flown to those testing sites.

That means testing samples that go through the new Abbott ID NOW device would still have to be sent to Rankin Inlet or Iqaluit for confirmation, she said.

Meanwhile, results from COVID-19 tests now done in Rankin Inlet or Iqaluit can be turned around in less than 36 hours, Brown said.

That compares favourably with the rest of Canada, where the average turnaround time for tests is between five and six days.

“We’re feeling like we’re on top of it,” she said, calling the Biofire and GeneXpert devices are the most reliable in Canada right now.

But the Health Department is also eyeing any new devices that may emerge.

“As new devices come into production and they’re approved by Health Canada, we are a part of the national committee that’s looking to see how we can adapt them to different situations,” she said.

Brown made her remarks in response to questions posed by Arviat North­­–Whale Cove MLA John Main, who asked Brown and Health Minister Lorne Kusugak about plans for expanding COVID-19 testing capabilities.

Nunavut MLAs have been scrutinizing the Department of Health’s $471-million operating budget for 2021-22 in committee of the whole.

The Health Department will account for 25.4 per cent of total territorial government spending in the next fiscal year.

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Arviat guess on

    That divice is probably cheaper than sending a plane every day from arviat to Rankin just to do a test why did they not get it right away in the first place?

    • Posted by The Old Trapper on

      Testing devices take time to develop, engineer, pass quality testing, obtain government approval, and then be manufactured in quantity.
      Getting a test with very few false negatives is one of the strict quality tests – a false positive is less serious as it would just mean inconvenience to a person.
      Part of the delay will also be getting the device to a size which is small enough to use at office type sites instead of in a full lab. Then the next step is to get it cheap enough so that it does indeed cost less than flying a plane full of swabs to a central location.
      Developing the testing devices, and all of the vaccines has been nothing short of amazing. Ten or twenty years ago we would probably still be waiting for an effective vaccine and now we have three, maybe four which are very very effective.
      Time to thank a scientist, and an engineer.

      • Posted by Keith on

        Until this last year, the average vaccine took 2-5 years for research, another 2 years to actually develop the manufacturing techniques, and only then start human testing, which would take anywhere from 5-9 years, and then another year or two for regulatory approval. On average, it was 10 years from the start until you had a single vaccine.
        There are now 4 or 5 (not counting the Russian and Chinese ones) that have been approved for use in about 10 MONTHS, and more coming. This is looking like it will be the single greatest medical achievement in the world since the elimination of smallpox.

    • Posted by Blair on

      The general idea is there are 3 variables; speed, accuracy and cost. Of which you can only choose 2….

      This test is cheaper, and faster – therefore not as accurate. In the article it does indicate that samples still need to be sent to Rankin or Iqaluit for confirmation. So they are being flown there anyway.

      The Biofire in Rankin and Iqaluit are very accurate and provides result in 60 minutes. The Abbot ID will only provide an idea on site if a patient is pos+ for covid. They can take measures accordingly to best protect the patient and population while awaiting the more accurate results of the laboratory Biofire test.

  2. Posted by Sam on

    FInally,put a tester in Nunavut’s covid outbreak centre,

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