COVID-19 outbreak at Gahcho Kué diamond mine declared over

·2 min read
Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer for N.W.T., first declared an outbreak at the mine about 280 kilometres from Yellowknife on Feb. 3. (De Beers  - image credit)
Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer for N.W.T., first declared an outbreak at the mine about 280 kilometres from Yellowknife on Feb. 3. (De Beers - image credit)

The COVID-19 outbreak at Gahcho Kué diamond mine is over, says the Northwest Territories' Office of the Chief Public Health Officer.

Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer for N.W.T., first declared an outbreak at the mine, about 280 kilometres from Yellowknife, on Feb. 3. According to a news release sent out Friday, the last person diagnosed with COVID-19 while working at the mine during the outbreak developed symptoms on Feb. 23.

The Gahcho Kué outbreak saw a total of 20 confirmed cases. Of those, eight were N.W.T. residents and 12 were workers from outside the territory, Dr. Andy Delli Pizzi, N.W.T.'s deputy chief public health officer, says in the release.

Three workers were hospitalized.

Everyone who contracted COVID-19 during the outbreak has since recovered, says Delli Pizzi, "meaning they do not have active infection that can be transmitted to others."

Rotational workers prioritized for vaccination

The N.W.T. government says it has prioritized vaccinating both resident and non-resident rotational workers on mineral and petroleum projects in the territory.

Friday's release says increasing immunity at these worksites will protect N.W.T. residents and the communities workers return to between shifts, specifically the more remote communities with limited health care access.

Delli Pizzi says across the country, non-resident rotational workers are being vaccinated in jurisdictions that rely on transitional workers to deliver essential services.

"Recent remote worksite outbreaks in the N.W.T., and the development of new COVID-19 variants in other parts of Canada, have highlighted the importance of protecting rotational workers living and working inside our borders," says Delli Pizzi.

"Every dose given in the N.W.T. will continue to boost the territory's overall immunity."

Mine adds protection measures

Delli Pizzi says Gahcho Kué has taken a wide range of steps to protect against COVID-19 and reduce the risk of transmission at the mine, and that further measures were put in place in the wake of the outbreak.

These include:

  • Enhanced pre-travel telephone screening before employees arrive at the site;

  • Mandatory rapid tests for all employees before boarding aircraft to the mine;

  • Testing for all employees at days four and eight after arrival, as well as inbound and outbound testing;

  • And "improvements in the quarantine wings," among other measures.

In the release, Delli Pizzi acknowledges the major toll Gahcho Kue's outbreak took on the territory.

"Assessing and self-isolating workers onsite, and relocating workers to Yellowknife or their home jurisdictions, required a collaborative effort between the [Office of the Chief Public Health Officer] and mine management and medics," he says, as well as public health nurses and health care workers in Yellowknife.

"Most of all, the outbreak impacted workers, their families and their communities," says Delli Pizzi.

"The OCPHO wishes to acknowledge the selflessness and goodwill of those who self-isolated to keep their friends, families, co-workers and the whole territory safe."