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Testing capacity has improved since Nunavut's first Covid lockdown, says chief public health officer

Since the last Covid-19 lockdown earlier in the spring, Nunavut has built up improved testing capacity, says Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer (CPHO).

During the first lockdown, there existed no in-territory testing capacity to confirm cases. All samples collected had to be sent to southern labs for confirmatory results.

Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson recently outlined how far the territory's Covid testing abilities have advanced over the past several months.
NNSL file photo

"The previous lockdown we had none in the territory – at the start of the pandemic we were flying everything south to labs, to do all of the analysis there," Patterson said on Nov. 18 as Nunavut's second lockdown was taking effect.

Wait times for results were significantly longer than what the GN is capable of doing now.

"When we were reliant on (southern testing), our average turnaround time was seven days and the range was up to 17 days, when you think about how long it takes to fly samples south," said Patterson.

Over time, the GN expanded its capacity for testing to be done within the territory.

"By the middle of the spring, certainly into May, we had the GeneXperts online and we were doing limited testing in Iqaluit," the CPHO said.

The territorial government now has improved testing capacity both in Iqaluit and in Rankin Inlet, both of which can confirm cases of Covid-19.

"We've accelerated from there – as of right now we have a GeneXpert and a BioFire in Rankin (Inlet) and in Iqaluit," said Patterson. "The BioFire in Iqaluit can do eight tests an hour and the BioFire in Rankin can do four an hour, and we have the upgrades now on the way to add extra modules in Rankin Inlet so they'll be able to eight an hour."

Anyone who has reason to believe they have been exposed to Covid-19 is advised to call the Covid-hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST, or notify their community health centre right away, and immediately isolate at home for 14 days. Please do not go to the health centre in person.