NWT confirms worrying first variant of COVID-19
A case of COVID-19 reported earlier this week at the Diavik Diamond Mine – about 300 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife – has been confirmed as the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the UK .
No further cases have been detected since the case was first reported on March 29.
The person who tested positive and 35 other people who were close contacts are still isolating themselves at the mine site. The infected person is “fine”.
The office of the chief public health officer previously reported that the person contracted the virus outside of the remote mine site, which is only accessible by air or ice road.
According to a statement from the NWT’s main office of public health, Diavik Diamond Mines will test all mine workers and “will continue to work with public health officials to mitigate the risk of transmission.”
The case is not reported in the territory’s COVID-19 statistics because the worker is not a resident of the NWT. There is no risk to the public at this time, the statement said.
An outbreak earlier this year at the Gahcho Kue diamond mine – about 280 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife and also remote – has increased to include 20 cases. This outbreak was declared over on March 26.
Nunavut faced a similar outbreak at the Hope Bay gold mine, located near the Arctic coast, nearly 700 kilometers northeast of Yellowknife.
Diavik has recorded three positive cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Two workers tested positive at the mine on December 23. One of them tested positive in November of last year.
None of these cases led to further spread in the mine.
Reports of COVID-19 outbreaks in northern mines have provided a rare window into the scale of remote and airborne operations. Otherwise, little is known about the number of workers accessible by air in Canada’s North.
Diavik Diamond Mines is a joint venture between the Rio Tinto group and Dominion Diamond Corporation.