N.W.T. confirms 1st COVID-19 variant of concern

·2 min read
The Diavik Diamond Mine in remote, northeastern N.W.T. A case of COVID-19 among a worker there has turned out to be the territory's first instance of a variant of concern. The chief public health officer has said there is no risk to the public.  (Rio Tinto - image credit)
The Diavik Diamond Mine in remote, northeastern N.W.T. A case of COVID-19 among a worker there has turned out to be the territory's first instance of a variant of concern. The chief public health officer has said there is no risk to the public. (Rio Tinto - image credit)

A case of COVID-19 reported earlier this week at the Diavik Diamond Mine —about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife — has been confirmed as the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

No other cases have been detected since the case was first reported on March 29.

The person who tested positive and 35 others who were close contacts are still self-isolating at the mine site. The person infected is "doing well."

The office of the chief public health officer previously reported that the person contracted the virus outside of the remote mine site, which is accessible only by air or ice road.

A news release from the N.W.T.'s chief public health office says Diavik Diamond Mines will test all employees at the mine, and "continue to work with Public Health officials to mitigate transmission risk."

The case is not being reported in the territory's COVID-19 statistics as the worker is not an N.W.T. resident. There is no risk to the public at this time, according to the release.

An outbreak earlier this year at the Gahcho Kue diamond mine — about 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife and similarly remote — grew to include 20 cases. That outbreak was declared over on March 26.

Nunavut faced a similar outbreak at the Hope Bay gold mine, which lies near the Arctic coast nearly 700 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.

Diavik has recorded three positive cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Two workers tested positive at the mine on Dec. 23. One tested positive in November of last year.

None of those cases lead to further spread within the mine.

Reporting on COVID-19 outbreaks at northern mines has provided a rare window in the scale of remote, fly-in operations. Otherwise, little is known about how many fly-in workers are employed in Canada's North.

Diavik Diamond Mines is a joint venture between the Rio Tinto Group and Dominion Diamond Corporation.