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'No risk' that Hong Kong tourists brought COVID-19 to Yellowknife, says N.W.T.'s top doctor

'It is highly likely that these individuals contracted COVID-19 while transiting through other hotspots of COVID-19 after leaving Yellowknife,' says Dr. Kami Kandola

Investigation found it 'highly likely' tourists contracted COVID-19 after leaving Yellowknife

The N.W.T.'s chief public health officer says there's 'no risk' to locals after a group of tourists to Yellowknife from Hong Kong tested positive for COVID-19. (Walter Strong/CBC)

The Northwest Territories chief public health officer says tourists from Hong Kong who visited Yellowknife and later tested positive for COVID-19 were not at risk of bringing the virus to the territory's capital.

"It is highly likely that these individuals contracted COVID-19 while transiting through other hotspots of COVID-19 after leaving Yellowknife," said Dr. Kami Kandola in a news release on Thursday. 

After an "exhaustive investigation," she said it was determined that the tourists did not catch COVID-19 in Hong Kong before coming to Canada, and that they left Yellowknife at least two weeks before they started showing symptoms.

Kandola said the N.W.T.'s investigation found there were six tourists affected, and not seven, as was previously reported by the Hong Kong government.

The six travelled to Yellowknife from Hong Kong with a stopover in Toronto on the way, said Kandola.

We appreciate that this was a long, stressful wait for residents who were itching for details.- Dr. Kami Kandola

She added that two more tourists joined this tour group after they left Yellowknife, "which accounts for the error in the original reporting from Hong Kong."

Tourists in Yellowknife Feb. 19-23

The tourists were in Yellowknife from Feb. 19 to 23 and then returned to Toronto, after which they travelled to Bolivia and Peru on Feb. 26, said Kandola.

According to Hong Kong Health Department data, the people affected then took a returning flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong either on March 15 or 17. It is unclear whether Vancouver was a layover for their return flight.

The data also shows that the six people developed symptoms — sore throat, fever and cough —  between March 13 and 18.

"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," said Kandola.

She also said the investigation found "no possible connections" between either of the territory's two confirmed COVID-19 cases and the Hong Kong tourists.

"There is no risk they brought the virus to Yellowknife," she said.

"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."

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