Health Minister Dr. John Haggie promised to look into a potential gap in travel restrictions Wednesday, Dec. 22, after being told passengers coming from outside the province were not give COVID-19 rapid test kits to administer at home while they isolate for five days.
The new order was issued Sunday as part of a string of restrictions culminating in the entire province being put on Alert Level 3 on Wednesday.
Passengers transferring from St. John’s International Airport were reportedly not given the kits, and received nothing after disembarking at Goose Bay airport as well.
“People coming in from outside the province should actually be tested. That’s the purpose of the (special-measures order),” Haggie said during a briefing Wednesday morning.
“It’s a question I’ve never had posed to me before, but certainly we can go and make sure that potential loophole … is closed.”
Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans wrote a letter to Haggie on Wednesday asking for clarity on the matter.
She said one passenger told her a flight on Tuesday had a two-hour layover in St. John’s on the way to Labrador, and that passengers on the flight included connectors from Montreal.
“They travelled on and deplaned in Labrador without any rapid tests,” she wrote. “This inequality of COVID-19 resource allocation is shocking and frightening.”
Evans said the Labrador region does not have the medical resources nor an ICU to be able to respond to a large-scale COVID-19 outbreak.
“My district of Torngat Mountains (northern Innu and Inuit communities) is especially vulnerable because of the total reliance on ‘good weather’ to be able to medivac patients,” she said. “My community of Nain is additionally burdened by the total reliance of daylight for medivac because the airstrip does not have nightlights.”
She asked for an investigation to ensure large gaps like what happened Tuesday don’t happen again.
Meanwhile, Haggie said rapid tests are not being handed out at the southern Labrador land border because the adjacent communities are being treated collectively and are relatively isolated.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Wednesday she is in close contact with Quebec officials in the region and is monitoring the situation closely.
Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram