An NWT delegation sent to a major mining conference in Toronto earlier this month is being asked to self-monitor for coronavirus, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday.
A delegation led by industry minister Katrina Nokleby spent March 1 and 2 at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention, known as PDAC. The convention is a major event at which the NWT markets itself to the mining and exploration industries.
Following the conference, an attendee in his late fifties tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. The man was not part of the NWT’s delegation but did attend the conference on March 2, when the territory’s group was also present.
The Globe and Mail reported Ontario health officials are examining how the man contracted coronavirus. The four-day conference attracted more than 23,000 people, though it’s unclear how many were present each day.
The NWT’s chief public health officer, Kami Kandola, said on Wednesday the delegation – including Nokleby – had been asked to self-monitor for flu-like symptoms for 14 days following their return.
Nokleby was absent from a sitting of the territorial legislature on Wednesday afternoon. RJ Simpson, the government house leader, said Nokleby could not attend for personal reasons. (The health minister, Diane Thom, was absent for the same reason.)
“I am not going to be talking about individual cases, but mass gatherings are something that could put people at risk,” said Kandola at a news conference earlier on Wednesday.
“If they have any cold or flu-like symptoms, they need to be calling their healthcare provider by phone and we will test them for Covid-19,” she said. Anyone tested is being told to remain at home until given the test’s results.
In scenarios like this, said Kandola, the health department will call people and ask them questions to determine if they have relevant symptoms.
“At this point, this is an ongoing assessment,” she said. “It’s literally happening this morning … we are still talking to these individuals and trying to find out what their individual risk is.”
34 NWT tests, all negative
Testing for coronavirus is similar to that for flu, involving a nose and throat swab sent to Alberta for analysis.
The NWT had tested 34 people for Covid-19 – the precise form of coronavirus in question – as of Wednesday morning. All results were negative.
Kandola said the NWT began “enhanced surveillance” last week and will test anyone who develops flu symptoms within two weeks of returning to the territory, even if they just went to High Level, in northern Alberta.
The territory’s chief public health officer also encouraged employers to postpone or cancel non-essential work travel.
Also on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said for the first time it was treating Covid-19’s spread as a pandemic.
The organization’s leader, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said he was “deeply concerned [by] alarming levels of inaction” regarding the virus.
A pandemic is defined as a disease spreading in multiple countries globally at the same time.