This week the Department of Health is launching a pilot project using chartered aircraft to transport Covid-19 testing samples from all Baffin communities to Iqaluit.
“Aside from the need to have increased testing capacity in-territory, we also need to improve the turnaround time for test results,” said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer.
The department is aiming to have a system in place that will reduce the test result turnaround time to five days or less.
A group of different companies and contractors will be working together to run the pilot project. A logistics company will help track, expedite and route testing samples through either scheduled flights or a chartered plane. Another company will arrange a plane on standby to pick up results and fly them to Iqaluit.
The pilot project will run for two weeks. Once the system is in place and working, the department will begin the same process in Rankin Inlet.
There are GeneXpert machines in both Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet. Additionally, a Biofire testing machine is operating in the capital. The Biofire machine in Rankin Inlet is expected to be operational sometime next week, said Patterson on Sept. 8.
Patterson told reporters he prefers the Biofire device over the GeneXpert machine. Besides there being a “better supply” of Biofire machines, the device is able to test for 14 other viruses and bacteria while testing for Covid-19, said the doctor.
“Increased in-territory testing capacity combined with shorter turnaround time for results will give us more flexibility with public health measures and improve our response in case of an outbreak,” explained Patterson during the press conference.
“However, testing is not enough,” said Patterson, adding minimizing the spread of Covid-19 relies on several measures. He emphasized the importance of social distancing, hand-washing, staying home if you are sick and the need for isolation hubs.
Patterson also stated that even after the requirement of in-territory testing is met there will still be some kind of need for isolation – whether it is the south or in the territory itself.
“That’s not going away anytime in the near future,” said Patterson, referring to isolation hubs.
However, in-territory testing will allow to further ease the restrictions outlined in Nunavut’s Path. This would be mean increasing the limits of inside gatherings and the lifting of physical activity measures that are limited in size and capacity, said Patterson.
There are now 12 ventilators in Nunavut.
Presently, there are no plans to develop more travel bubbles or open new isolation hubs.
This weekend marked the end of the 14-day waiting period for the 23 contacts connected with the positive case at Ottawa Residence Inn. None of the contacts have contracted the virus.
Nunavut remains Covid-19 free. Presently 400 people are being followed for Covid-19.