Speaking on Dec. 16, Dr. Kami Kandola, the chief public health officer for the NWT, said that, as far as health officials are aware, there has been no transmission of Covid-19 as a result of a case involving a person who was on a flight from Edmonton to Yellowknife and then another flight to Hay River, both on Dec. 4.
NNSL file photo

Dr. Kami Kandola says there is no indication of transmission related to the first identified Covid-19 case in Hay River.

All the right things were done, said the chief public health officer for the NWT.

“The person self-isolated, had symptoms, got tested, was interviewed and the close contacts were isolated. So from that investigation, it seemed pretty contained.”

The case was announced on Dec. 12, and it involved a person who flew from Edmonton to Yellowknife and then on to Hay River on Dec. 4.

Speaking on Dec. 16, Kandola explained normal protocol is that, if there’s a potential that a person is in the infectious period while travelling even though the risk of transmission is quite low, the flight numbers would be announced and people would be contacted if they sat in the three rows in front of and the three rows behind the person diagnosed.

“And then we would ask all those contacts to get tested on day 10,” she said, referring to 10 days after the flights on Dec. 4. “Today is a Wednesday (Dec. 16), so it would be day 12. And as far as we know there hasn’t been any transmission based on the two flights.”

Everyone was still in 14 days of self-isolation as of Dec. 16, although Kandola declined to say how many people that involved.

In light of the recent case in Hay River, Kandola was asked about the protocol which allows people to fly into Yellowknife and then on to the three other isolation centres – Hay River, Inuvik and Fort Smith.

She noted that, when people come into the territories, the most common flight will be from Calgary or Edmonton to Yellowknife.

“So if you land in Yellowknife and you live in any of those three communities or you plan to isolate in those three communities, you can continue to go on,” she said of Hay River, Fort Smith and Inuvik. “We just ask people to wear a mask, they physically distance and abide by those public health rules.”

Those rules won’t be changed because of the Hay River case.

“The actual risk of transmission is quite low if people are wearing a mask,” said Kandola. “The flight duration from Yellowknife to Hay River or to Fort Smith is quite low.”

However, she noted there has been discussion with airlines about the longer flight from Yellowknife to Norman Wells and Inuvik, and if they would consider separating passengers who are coming from out of territories from those who are travelling within the NWT.

“But myself, as the NWT chief public health officer, I don’t have jurisdiction on the actual flight itself and how seats are arranged,” Kandola said. “It’s under federal jurisdiction and under Transport Canada rules.”

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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