YELLOWKNIFE APRIL 1, 2021 – Alberta Precision Laboratories has notified the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO) that the COVID-19 infection in a Diavik Diamond Mine worker announced March 29 is a Variant of Concern.
Lab analysis confirmed the virus is the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. This is the first Variant of Concern identified in the Northwest Territories (NWT).
The individual and other people identified as contacts are currently self-isolating at a secure location onsite. The individual is doing well.
Assessment by the OCPHO is that the individual did not acquire infection from the mine site. All screening measures to try and prevent introduction of COVID-19 infections were in place.
Diavik Diamond Mine is approximately 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.
The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer is working closely with Diavik mine to ensure the individual with COVID-19 and contacts continue to safely isolate onsite.
The company will test all employees at the mine site and continue to work with Public Health officials to mitigate transmission risk.
Routine monitoring and follow-up will continue with the individual and contacts. Medical staff are continuing to monitor and assess all worksite employees per standard COVID safety protocols.
The case is not being reported in the territory’s COVID-19 statistics. The individual is not an NWT resident.
The Public Health Agency of Canada requires that attribution of COVID-19 infections to a province or territory depend on individual’s place-of-residence.
There is no identified risk to NWT communities related to the outbreak at the Diavik Diamond Mine at this time. The introduction of a Variant of Concern into the NWT is a new development in the pandemic, and we must be vigilant in our response to this.
Monitoring and investigation will continue per public health communicable disease protocols to mitigate any transmission risk.
Variants of Concern
Variants of Concern have been increasing in number both across Canada and globally. Evidence gathered to date suggests Variants of Concern spread among people easier and faster than the original strain. This can result in more illness, hospitalizations, and deaths.
COVID-19 infections caused by a Variant of Concern typically have the same symptoms as those caused by a non-variant strain of the virus, including cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, or other symptoms.
While the new COVID-19 Variants of Concern seem to spread more easily than the original virus, the same types of preventive strategies will be effective. There is strong evidence that the Moderna vaccine is very protective against the B.1.1.7 variant. Protect yourself and your community by practicing these healthy habits every day:
- Keep physical distance of at least two metres (or six feet).
- Wash or sanitize your hands frequently, especially if touching your face.
- Wear a mask when keeping distance is tough.
- Keep crowds small and spaces large.
- Stay home if you’re sick, even if your symptoms are mild.
- Call your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms of COVID-19.
- Self-isolate responsibly whenever required.
The OCPHO anticipated it would see Variants of Concern, such as B.1.1.7, at some point in the NWT and it is prepared to handle them. We all can lower the risk of transmitting COVID-19 by following healthy habits.
All commentary is attributable to Dr. Kami Kandola, Chief Public Health Officer for the Northwest Territories.