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Presumptive positive Covid-19 cases rise to eight at Hope Bay mine; new mask requirement for exempted workers

An eighth presumptive positive Covid-19 case has been detected at the Hope Bay gold mine in the Kitikmeot region, the Government of Nunavut revealed Friday.

“We're responding to our first outbreak that started at least partly in Nunavut,” chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson says. NNSL file photo

Subsequent swabs sent to a southern lab for confirmation testing still haven't been processed, Premier Joe Savikataaq said during a press conference.

Two Hope Bay mine staff were confirmed as having contracted Covid on Sept. 20. The subsequent presumptive cases are probably linked to the first two infected individuals but it's not yet known how, chief public health officer Michael Patterson said.

The risk to Nunavummiut remains low as there is no direct contact with surrounding communities, said Patterson. However, as a new precautionary measure beginning Oct. 5, all exempted workers travelling to Nunavut will be required to wear masks when outside their dwellings for 14 days, Patterson announced.

The Department of Health sent its rapid response team to the Hope Bay mine, 125 km southwest of Cambridge Bay, on Sept. 28 after TMAC Resources alerted the chief public health officer about presumptive positive tests on Sept. 26. Additional testing and contract tracing has taken place. It was one of the latest five swabs that tested as presumptive positive, raising the total presumptive cases to eight. An additional eight swabs are expected to be delivered to Rankin Inlet for testing on Saturday. The rapid response team is expected to remain on site until the middle of next week.

“We're responding to our first outbreak that started at least partly in Nunavut,” Patterson said.

TMAC Resources has isolated the infected miners.

“It is clear we are into the second wave of this virus. Covid-19 is nowhere near being over,” Savikataaq said, noting rising cases in some southern jurisdictions. He reminded Nunavummiut to continue best practices, such as social distancing, wearing masks in public and frequent hand washing.

Agnico Eagle Mines and Baffinland Iron Mines have been paying Nunavummiut mine staff 75 per cent of their wages to stay home since April. How much longer that arrangement will remain in place is unknown.

“They haven't specified a timeline to me,” Finance Minister George Hickes said.

-A previous version of this story contained an error. The presumptive positive workers at the Hope Bay mine have been isolated but remain on site. 

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