Red Cross to begin rapid COVID-19 testing in Winnipeg isolation hubs
Chief public health officer urges Nunavummiut to participate
Beginning this week, the Red Cross will offer rapid COVID-19 testing in Winnipeg isolation hubs where Nunavut residents stay before they return home after going south for medical treatment or other travel.
Monday’s announcement by chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson follows one made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week when he announced $30 million in funding for Nunavut.
“As active case counts in the rest of the country continue to rise, it is important that we add additional measures to reduce the risk to Nunavummiut,” said Patterson during a news conference on Dec. 7.
The tests, which will be taken in guests’ rooms, could yield initial results in as little as 15 minutes.
Presumptive positive cases will be sent to a lab for confirmatory testing. If confirmed, the guest will remain in isolation for at least 10 days from when the test was collected. If symptoms persist, the length of that isolation would be adjusted accordingly, he said.
The voluntary tests will be offered to guests upon checking into the hubs, on day five, and once again on day 12, shortly before departing.
Patterson strongly urged people to participate.
“This will help reduce the risk of bringing COVID-19 to the territory and provide additional protection for our families and communities,” Patterson said.
Participation in rapid testing will not shorten isolation times, said Patterson, calling the 14-day period an effective tool to reduce risk of transmission.
“Testing will increase that effectiveness, but … nothing is perfect.”
During Monday’s conference, Patterson added the Department of Health still doesn’t know exactly how COVID-19 entered the territory. The first case was confirmed a little more than a month ago — on Nov. 6 — in Sanikiluaq.
After that, cases were confirmed in three other communities — Rankin Inlet, Arviat and Whale Cove.
“At this point, I don’t know that we will ever know exactly what happened, other than the first cases had all passed through the hub,” he said.
On Monday, the Government of Nunavut also announced three new cases of COVID-19 in the territory, all in Arviat, bringing the community total to 49 active cases.
Three people in Whale Cove have also recovered, bringing the community total to two.
Territory-wide, there are 51 active COVID-19 cases, while 168 people have now recovered.