The NWT’s chief public health officer says she is satisfied a group of Hong Kong tourists who recently visited Yellowknife posed no Covid-19 threat.
As first reported by Cabin Radio, Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) stated in March that members of a tour group to Canada had tested positive for the coronavirus disease on their return home.
Two Hong Kong newspapers, quoting spokespeople from the CHP, reported seven tourists had visited Yellowknife as part of that trip. The tour had also visited Peru and Bolivia.
In a statement on Thursday, the NWT’s chief public health officer – Dr Kami Kandola – said “an exhaustive investigation” had concluded only six of the individuals came to Yellowknife, and they did so well before any reported symptoms of Covid-19.
“These six individuals travelled to Yellowknife from Hong Kong with a stopover in Toronto along the way. They stayed in Yellowknife from February 19 to 23,” Dr Kandola said by email.
“They then returned to Toronto and left to tour Bolivia and Peru on February 26,” Kandola wrote. “Two additional tourists joined the group in Toronto for this trip and did not travel to Yellowknife, which accounts for the error in the original reporting from Hong Kong cited by Cabin Radio.
“The earliest onset of symptoms of anyone in the group was March 13, 2020. Others developed symptoms days later. This puts two weeks between the group of six’s departure from Yellowknife and the onset of symptoms.”
Cabin Radio has independently spoken to one of the tour group’s members.
That member of the tour did not visit Yellowknife but did go to other locations on the itinerary. They were aware of the full tour schedule and separately confirmed that the Yellowknife trip had taken place from February 19 to 23.
Kandola said her office’s investigation also “determined that there are no possible connections” between either of the first two confirmed cases in the Northwest Territories and the group of six tourists.
Her statement continued: “Given this information, we have determined these tourists did not contract Covid-19 in Hong Kong before coming to Canada, and that there is no risk they brought the virus to Yellowknife.
“It is highly likely that these individuals contracted Covid-19 while transiting through other hotspots of Covid-19 after leaving Yellowknife.
“We appreciate that this was a long, stressful wait for residents who were itching for details. However, it was important we had all the information at our disposal, and thoroughly investigated the incident before we reported back to residents.”
As of Thursday afternoon, there remain two confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the territory – one in Yellowknife and one in Inuvik. So far, there have been 994 negative tests and a further 171 are pending.