Greenland authorities call for more testing after July 6 flight from Denmark linked to more COVID-19 cases

A file photo of an Air Greenland plane approaching the town of Sisimiut in western Greenland. Health authorities to asking locals to be extremely vigilant in the coming days after two people in the city tested for COVID-19 on Saturday. (Bob Strong/Reuters)

Greenland’s public health authorities are asking everyone who flew from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq on July 6 to quarantine and get tested for COVID-19 after three more people from the flight tested positive on Saturday. 

Travellers who are fully vaccinated are also being asked to comply, along with those who have already tested negative on their day 5 tests in the territory.

There are many indications that this is a very contagious variant,” Henrik L. Hansen, Greenland’s chief medical officer, said in a news release on Monday.  

“Infected persons do not necessarily test positive on the fifth day. That’s why it’s extremely important that everyone who received the fifth-day test on Saturday is quarantined and has a new test performed. 

Two of the new cases are in the city of Sisimiut in western Greenland, and one is in Qaqortoq, a town in the South. 

At least one of the people infected in Sisimiut had been in contact with several other people prompting health authorities to ask locals to be extremely vigilant in the coming days. 

“All citizens of Sisimiut are encouraged to be aware of symptoms and be tested if there is the slightest sign of illness,” the government said in a news release. 

Delta variant concerns

Samples from the recent cases have been sent to Denmark for analysis, to determine their variant.

In a separate news release on Sunday, the government said 10,000 people aged 18 and over still had not had a first vaccination despite them being made available to the population. Greenland’s population is approximately 56,000.

Vaccination coverage of people under 45 years old remains low, with those 18-24 having the lowest rates. The capital city of Nuuk, with a population of approximately 19,000 is also of concern, with 3,500 people still without a first dose, health officials say.

“Only if the younger age groups are also vaccinated can larger outbreaks be prevented,” the government said. 

On Monday, Hansen renewed his call for more people to get vaccinated saying it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep COVID-19 out of Greenland. 

These cases of infection show how important it is that everyone who has the opportunity to do so is vaccinated,” he said.

“Even though the vaccine does not provide 100 percent protection against the infection, all experience shows that the vaccinated get a much milder course of the disease.”

On Tuesday, Kalaallit Nunaata Radio, the Greenlandic Broadcasting Corporation, reported there were now 13 COVID-19 cases across Greenland; six in Sisimiut, three in Qaqortoq, and one each in Narsaq, Narsarsuaq, Ilulissat and Nuuk.

Related stories from around the North:

CanadaNunavik tourism reopening reason for optimism, vaccination uptake still a concern, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Swedish health agency reinstates test recommendation for travelers outside of Nordics, Radio Sweden

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 a 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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