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Presumptive Covid case detected at Diavik Diamond Mine

The individual with the presumptive positive case of Covid-19 is self-isolating at a designated spot at the mine, said the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer. file photo

A presumptive case of Covid-19 has been detected at the Diavik Diamond Mine and is under investigation.

"Testing upon entry resulted in a presumptive positive case for an Alberta resident working at Diavik Diamond Mine," Mike Westwick, spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer, said in a news release Thursday. "The individual is currently self-isolating in a designated isolation area onsite and is doing well with no symptoms."

He said no further details would be provided to protect the individual's privacy.

Medical staff at the mine are working with health officials to validate the test at a laboratory in Alberta.

"Contacts at the mine site have been isolated in designated isolation areas. No additional contacts are expected in the Northwest Territories – though the case investigation continues," Westwick said.

Contacts were already minimized due to intensified precautions taken on charter flights to mines in the NWT, including direct charter flights from Edmonton to the mine site and mandatory mask use on airplanes and shuttle buses.

"The individual had also spent minimal time on the work site at the time of receiving a result. As this case continues to be validated, statistics on our website will not include this presumptive case at this time," Westwick added.

In a statement from Diavik, spokesperson Simon Letendre said the company has "extensive measures in place" to protect people.

"(We) continue to be guided by the Northwest Territories government and advice from international health organisations on best practice.”

Diavik introduced testing at its site in May and has since conducted thousands of tests at its on-site laboratory, set up by non-profit health group GuardRX, the company said.

RELATED REPORTING: Diavik starts Covid testing program at diamond mine

All personnel are tested using nasopharyngeal swabs upon arrival at the mine and before leaving to return home.

People coming to the site also undergo 14 days of recorded self-monitoring before arriving,  including temperature checks and physical distancing; people are medically screened before travelling to Diavik through a hotline with physician assistants; further health screenings and temperature checks are given before personnel board flights to the mine; and once at the site there is further daily monitoring.

Diavik has cancelled all non-business critical travel to the site and changed work roles so that anyone who can work remotely does so; shifts have been lengthened to reduce frequency of travel to and from the site; charter flights are used to restrict employees and contractors' from commercial flights; and physical distancing protocols are in effect at the mine site.

Diavik also supports Covid testing at the nearby Gahcho Kué and Snap Lake mines.

The Diavik mine is about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.

False claims

The spokesperson pointed to some claims on Facebook on Thursday morning alleging there were three cases of Covid in the hospital in Yellowknife.

"This is false. We would like to remind residents that spreading unconfirmed rumours serves only to spread anxiety and misinformation – and are dangerous to our collective well-being," Westwick said.

"The public are reminded that the GNWT will always announce new cases as soon as possible after the circumstances of cases are determined, and patient notification is complete."