Dr Wong Ka-hing, controller of Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection, conducts a news conference in March 2020.
The NWT government is investigating reports that seven tourists who visited Yellowknife went on to test positive for Covid-19 on their later return to Hong Kong.
Two established Hong Kong news outlets have reported that the tourists were part of a larger group visiting Peru, Bolivia, and the Northwest Territories.
There is currently no clear indication that any of those involved were both in Yellowknife and infected with the virus at the same time. They may have contracted the virus elsewhere and the territory may not have been exposed.
Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) first reported on Friday, March 20, that two members of a tour group to Canada had tested positive for the coronavirus disease on their return home.
By Monday, the CHP’s number of confirmed cases in the same tour group had grown to seven.
The CHP did not specify in its written news releases that Yellowknife had been the tour group’s destination in Canada.
However, The Standard – an English-language Hong Kong newspaper – and Apple Daily, a leading Chinese-language newspaper, have each reported that the tour group visited Yellowknife, attributing the information to CHP officials.
The NWT government on Tuesday said it had received no such reports but was looking into the matter.
“Our public health division has not received any information to this effect from Canada or Hong Kong,” said a spokesperson by email.
“We are investigating and will act swiftly if we get new information.”
The territorial government said the most important message remains: “Every single one of us must be keeping physical distance in everything we do – about six feet – avoiding large gatherings, washing our hands tons with soap and water or hand sanitizer, not touching our faces or eyes, and staying home if we’re sick.
“We need to be doing this 100 percent of the time, no matter where we are, if we’re going to limit the spread of this virus.”
Details of travel
Even if the tour group’s trip to Yellowknife is confirmed, there is not yet any information publicly available that states the tourists had the virus while they were in the NWT.
The dates of any travel to and from the territory are not known.
Hong Kong’s CHP provides detailed tables listing the available data related to each confirmed case of Covid-19.
For the seven tourists in question, each entry confirms they had taken part in a trip to Peru, Bolivia, and Canada. You can read their entries in three separate CHP tables here, here, and here. (Search for Peru or Bolivia to find the relevant entries.)
Two ended their trips on March 15, four on March 17, and one on March 20, the CHP’s tables state. Most, but not all, reported feeling symptoms just before their trips finished. One only reported symptoms the day after they came home.
Five of the seven reported flying home from Vancouver to Hong Kong. One person reported connecting using a Toronto-Vancouver flight, suggesting that person did not return direct from the NWT.
The CHP’s list of flights known to have been taken by the seven (and Hong Kong’s other confirmed cases) does not currently include any Yellowknife flights.
No Canadian airlines have yet reported any Yellowknife flights confirmed to have been affected by Covid-19. (The NWT’s one positive case to date, a Yellowknife resident, flew home after travelling in BC and Alberta. That flight has not been identified.)
It’s not clear if Yellowknife was the last destination on the trip for some, or any, of the group.
The CHP did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.