Inuit region of Arctic Quebec to start double testing travellers for COVID-19

All of Nunavik’s communities are fly-in only. The health board in Nunavik, the Inuit region of Arctic Quebec, announced Thursday that travellers to the region will start being double tested for COVID-19. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)
The regional health board in Nunavik, the Inuit region of Arctic Quebec, will require travellers from the South to be double tested for COVID-19 starting next week. 

Travellers will need to be tested before boarding the plane to Nunavik, and then get tested again seven days after their arrival, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) said in a Facebook post Thursday morning.

The new testing does not replace the required 14-day quarantine period after arriving in the region.

Travellers will be required to stay in quarantine from arrival until the second test. If they test negative on day seven, they will still be required to observe the remaining days of the 14-day quarantine period.

The NRBHSS said the exact date the new measure would take effect will be announced in coming days.

New cases emerging

After a long period of being COVID free, new cases in Nunavik have emerged within the last three weeks, as the province of Quebec navigates its second wave.

A case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the Nunavik community of Kuujjuaraapik on the Hudson Bay coast and was reported on September 22. The infection appeared to be travel related and there was no evidence of community transmission. Then on September 28, a case was announced in another Hudson Bay community, this time in Inukjuak, another likely case of a travel-related infection. 

The Ungava Tulattavik Health Centre in Kuujjuaq, Quebec. Nunavik has largely been able to keep COVID-19 out of the region since the pandemic began, with only 20 cases so far reported in the region, including a recent one at a Nunavik fly-in mine. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

On Wednesday, another case was reported at Canadian Royalties Nunavik Nickel project, a fly-in copper and nickel mine in Nunavik. The operation employs workers from down South and from Nunavik’s communities. 

The person likely got infected down south and is currently in isolation,” the NRBHSS said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

“No one in Nunavik is considered to be a significant contact with the infected person; significant contact means contact that has been close enough to the infected person to allow the virus to circulate. This situation is therefore not a threat to workers and to Nunavimmiut [people from Nunavik].

Including the new case at the mine, there’s now been 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavik since the pandemic began. There’s been no deaths.

Nunavik has a population of approximately 13,000 people, with 14 communities in the region.

The community of Inukjuak in Nunavik, Quebec. A travel-related COVID-19 case was reported here on September 28. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)
Double-testing in several Arctic jurisdictions

Double testing regimes have been put into effect in several different Arctic jurisdictions as COVID-19 numbers surge around the world.

Greenland currently requires travellers to their region to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within five days of departure, at Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport, before being allowed to board the plane to Greenland.

As of October 7, this also applies children under 12, who were previously exempt.

At the end of the month, the government also reintroduced quarantine rules upon entry, which include either a 14–day quarantine, or getting retested for COVID-19 five days or later after arrival.

The airport in Nuuk, Greenland in 2013. Travellers to the region must present a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to board the plane to Greenland. A second test is required after arrival. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Neighbouring Iceland’s double testing regime has been in place since August 19.

In that country, travellers are given the option of a 14-day quarantine or undergoing a double-testing regime, with one test upon arrival and then a 5 to 6 day quarantine at which point a second COVID-19 test would be done to rule out initial false negatives.

The NRBHSS wasn’t able to immediately respond to inquiries for details about the new regime in Nunavik before deadline, but this story will be updated when the responses come in.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca 

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s Northwest Territories has some of the most strict gathering and self-isolation restrictions in the country, CBC News

Finland:  Finnair to end flights to five regional airports, including to Kemi, Lapland, Yle News

Denmark: Faroe Islands updates COVID-19 guidelines for travellers, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Greenland approves revised COVID-19 strategy, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland to continue double screening for COVID-19 until December 1, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norwegians with Swedish property threaten legal action over travel restrictions, Radio Sweden

Sweden: Finland, UK to remove travel restrictions on Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: To stop coronavirus, Arctic communities took matters into their own hands. Can it last?, Blog by Mia Bennett

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying an culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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