Nunavut reports first confirmed COVID-19 cases, saying both are mine workers

IQALUIT, Nunavut — Nunavut is reporting its first confirmed cases of COVID-19, but a spokeswoman for the premier says that since they didn't originate in the territory they'll instead be counted in other jurisdictions.

The territory's chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, says in a news release there are two cases at the Hope Bay gold mine 125 km southwest of Cambridge Bay.

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Patterson says both miners are asymptomatic and were exposed to COVID-19 in their home jurisdictions.

He says the samples tested positive on the GeneXpert device in Rankin Inlet late on September 16 and were confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg on Sunday.

Cate Macleod, a spokewoman for Premier Joe Savikataaq, says in an email that the cases will be counted in the jurisdictions where the workers contracted COVID-19.

The territory says at this time, there is no evidence of transmission within the Hope Bay Mine site.

"Hope Bay Mine is an isolated location, and no Nunavut residents currently work there. The risk of COVID-19 spreading in our communities because of these cases remains very low," Health Minister George Hickes said in a news release.

"We are closely monitoring the situation and we will keep Nunavummiut informed if anything changes."

The Nunavut government says its current public health measures are not affected.

Nunavut does not list any confirmeded cases of the infection.

A fly-in worker at the Mary River iron mine on the northern tip of Baffin Island was originally diagnosed positive on June 30, but the initial result was on the low end of the spectrum and a further test in early July came back negative.

A presumed positive case in the spring also turned out to be negative.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2020.

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