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GeneXpert device for Covid-19 almost operational in Rankin Inlet

“In the interest of being cautious, we don’t want to make it operational until we’re certain that it’s safe and reliable” says Dr. Michael Patterson, referring to the GeneXpert machine in Rankin Inlet.

The GeneXpert testing device in Rankin Inlet has been validated by Health Canada, said Dr. Michael Patterson, during Thursday’s press conference. However, the machine is not yet operational.

In order to safely and effectively carry out the testing more works needs to be done, explained the chief public health officer.

Staff need to be able to receive, process and analyze the samples safely without exposing any health centre staff to an infection; whether it is Covid-19, tuberculosis, any bacteria or viruses that may be in a sample, he explained.

More time is needed to train staff about the testing device, revealed Patterson, adding the staff will be getting extra training from Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Lab.

The goal is to have this diagnostic capacity available for “months and years down the road,” said Patterson, adding “Covid-19 is probably not going away in the near future.” In order to have reliable testing within the territory, “it’s worth taking the extra time to make sure that it’s done right,” he said.

Although Patterson could not commit to a definite date, he is hoping the machine will be operational by next week.

The other GeneXpert machine in Iqaluit has been validated since May 8. This machine can test four swabs simultaneously and provide results within an hour.

A company named Spartan is presently working on some testing devices for Covid-19. Patterson said if these testing machines become available, the plan is to deploy them in Cambridge Bay and other communities. Patterson did not explain why a Spartan testing device would be appropriate for other communities.

The GN is presently working on a reopening plan that Patterson hopes to share next week publicly. The plan will involve starting with “internal restrictions and lowest risk encounters,” he said. This may involve: increasing the number of people for outdoor gatherings; opening parks, municipal playgrounds and daycares.

Nunavut’s public health emergency has been extended to May 28. The order had first come into effect on March 20 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The territory continues to remain as the only Covid-19 free jurisdiction in Canada.