Nunavut reports presumptive coronavirus case, would be territory’s first if confirmed

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The novel coronavirus pandemic may have finally reached Nunavut, as the territory announced its first presumptive case Thursday.

Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson said the case is a worker at the Mary River Mine on Baffin Island, about 176 kilometres southwest of Pond Inlet in the upper north of the territory.

Read more: Canada adds 302 coronavirus cases on Thursday as Nunavut reports presumptive case

The worker had recently travelled to Nunavut for a shift at the open pit iron mine run by Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation, Patterson said. The worker was not showing symptoms, but was tested as part of routine screening.

The person is doing well and is isolating from co-workers at the site, he added. All known contacts of the worker are also in isolation.

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Health officials are now awaiting official results to return from a laboratory for confirmation.

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“We anticipate that these results will be available early next week,” Patterson said at a news conference.

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“If the additional testing yields a positive result, this will be considered Nunavut’s first confirmed case.”

Up until now, Nunavut has remained the only jurisdiction without any cases of COVID-19 in Canada, which has reported over 104,700 cases as of Thursday.

A case in Pond Inlet that was reported in April and thought to be the territory’s first case turned out to be a false positive.

Read more: ‘Huge relief’: Nunavut’s first coronavirus case a false positive

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The government said no Nunavut residents have worked at the mine since March and, as it is considered as essential service, its operation will continue despite the presumptive case.

Patterson added that the workers are not required to isolate when they travel into Nunavut, as they fly directly to the mine for their work rotations.

He would not reveal where the worker involved in the probable case is from.

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“There is no need for Nunavummiut to worry about the spread of COVID-19 in relation to this case,” Health Minister George Hickes said in an earlier press release.

Hickes later told the news conference that employees at the mine do not have contact with community members. He added it’s best for mine workers who are Nunavut residents to stay home.

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“There’s a lot of concern with having Nunavummiut go to the mine site then go back to the community. So to my knowledge, all of the operating mines in Nunavut are still paying their Nunavut employees to not go to work right now out of fear of contamination of the community.”

Read more: Yukon to ease some coronavirus border restrictions on Wednesday

The territory is also proceeding with its reopening plan as normal, and is maintaining travel between Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

As of Monday, limits for outdoor gatherings have been raised to 50 people, while indoor gatherings are up to 10 people. Many businesses, including bars and restaurants, have been allowed to reopen under public health and physical distancing guidelines.

Canada’s north has been relatively unscathed by the pandemic. All confirmed cases in the two other territories — 11 in the Yukon, and five in the Northwest Territories — have recovered, and no new cases have been reported in over two months.

— With files from the Canadian Press

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