Nunavut said Thursday that one person tested positive for Pond Inlet, a community of just over 1,600 people on the northeast coast of Baffin Island. But a second test showed that it was a false positive, according to a government press release sent on Monday. There are now no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory.
“Last week’s Pond Inlet result was retested and found to be false positive,” the statement said.
The chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, said that this type of double testing is part of the process, but also apologized.
“I would like to apologize to Pond Inlet for the inconvenience we caused them – I caused them. And thank them for their hard work and cooperation, “he said at a press conference on Monday.
After the territory announced what would be its first case, 13 swabs were taken from people identified as having been in contact with this person. Initially, 20 people were identified through contact tracing, but health officials decided not to test them all.
The results of the preliminary tests for these swabs were carried out in Iqaluit by the GeneXpert, a machine commonly used for tuberculosis screening tests. To confirm the results, a second set of swabs was then sent to a laboratory in Ontario.
Prime Minister Joe Savikataaq said on the CBC radio show Qulliq On Monday morning, the 13 swab results – collected through the search for contacts in the community by a quick-response health team – came back over the weekend. They were negative.
“Since there were no other positive COVID-19 tests at Pond Inlet, we decided to request that the original swab be retested,” said Patterson.
He said the initial false positive “came from a laboratory in the South”.
WATCH | Press conference on false positives:
Patterson said that false positives are very dependent on the testing machine itself and the amount of COVID-19 in the community being tested.
“False positives are an issue that every jurisdiction has dealt with,” said Patterson.
He said that all laboratories had false positives, so the result was not due to human error.
“This is something that happens with all laboratory tests,” he said.
“We believe that the person from Pond Inlet did not and never had COVID-19. “
He said that the person involved had not been outside Pond Inlet for some time and that contact tracing showed that no one linked to this person had COVID-19. There is also no increase in respiratory illnesses in the community.
The rapid response team is now leaving the community.
As of Monday, 266 people are under investigation for COVID-19 in Nunavut and 437 have been cleared.
Territory-wide public health restrictions remain in place, but additional safety restrictions related to the Pond Inlet case are lifted.