Rapid COVID-19 tests coming to Nunavut’s Winnipeg isolation hubs

Federal government’s economic statement includes $30M for territory

The Best Western Plus Hotel on 1715 Wellington Ave. in Winnipeg is one of four isolation hubs maintained by the Government of Nunavut for residents in southern Canada awaiting to return to the territory. (Image from tourismwinnipeg.com)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Isolation hubs in Winnipeg, where residents and travellers stay before coming to Nunavut, will soon see rapid testing support for people flying into the territory, said Prime Minister Trudeau in Tuesday’s COVID-19 update.

Rapid tests can be analyzed in the same clinics where the samples are taken and do not need to be sent to a lab, meaning results come back much faster.

Their use could make Nunavut’s isolation hubs more effective, Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, had said earlier, in a Nov. 25 news conference.

The Government of Nunavut has a review underway to see what else can be done to improve the effectiveness of the isolation hubs, where residents awaiting return to the territory self-isolate for two weeks.

As well, an additional $30 million in funding for Nunavut was announced in the federal government’s economic statement on Tuesday.

The intention is to use the money to cover the costs of running isolation hubs across the country, said Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq.

“These hubs might be open for quite a while longer,” said Savikataaq.

As of Nov. 19, the GN had spent an estimated $36.6 million running the isolation hubs, according to the premier’s office.

“It’s a high cost, but the actual cost of COVID coming in will be much harsher,” he said.

On average, it costs $434 per day to have one person stay in an isolation hub. This comes to $6,076 per person for the required 14-day isolation period before entering the territory.

The GN does not yet know when the funding will arrive or whether all of the money can be put towards isolation hubs, but Savikataaq said they have been lobbying for more federal assistance since opening the isolation hubs in March 2020 and appreciate the help.

If the full $30 million is allowed to be put towards isolation hubs, “it would be used to reimburse ourselves, because we have spent that money on the hubs already,” said Savikataaq.

“It’s quite a drain on us. We kept COVID out for a long time, but it comes at a cost,” he said.

As of Tuesday, there were 93 active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut.

The Red Cross has been deployed to help on the ground in Arviat, the hardest-hit community in the territory, with 76 confirmed active cases.

There is still evidence of community transmission in Arviat, said Dr. Patterson at a news conference Monday.

The current Nunavut-wide two-week lockdown will continue in Arviat and be revisited in two weeks, while restrictions will begin to ease for most other regions starting Wednesday, government officials said.

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