British Columbia continues to wait for more rapid test approvals before providing greater access to the quick COVID-19 detection tool.
This comes as Alberta and Ontario continue to distribute the federal government’s current rapid test stockpile to schools.
The federal government has allocated 1,779,650 Abbott Panbio rapid tests for British Columbia, but so far only 93,768 have been used.
Ontario to roll out rapid COVID-19 tests at some schools
“More promising is the Roche Bio Sense rapid test is now under regulatory review in Canada. The approval is expected this week. In this case Canada could receive in the millions of tests which would be helpful for schools,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.
“Those decisions will be decided with all of these tests with the recommendations of public health and whether they actually help people.”
It is still unclear why Ontario is using the currently approved tests for schools and British Columbia is not.
The new rapid antigen screening program in Ontario will be used to target unvaccinated and asymptomatic children. The testing is not available for those considered to be close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Growing pressure on B.C. government to use COVID-19 rapid testing in schools
In Ontario, the local public health units can request a test and they are supposed to be administered in areas with lower vaccination rates and higher spread of the virus.
The B.C. Teachers Federation has been asking the province to consider using rapid tests now as a screening tool for students showing minimal COVID symptoms.
“We need all of it. We need transparency of data. We need a comprehensive testing strategy. We are seeing more kids this year get sick with COVID,” union president Teri Mooring said.
“There is a really a sense that we are sticking to what we saw last June rather than being more proactive and responding to what we are seeing on the ground.
“Having tests available for local health authorities really makes sense because it is a surveillance tool for those authorities to understand what is going on.”
Canada must be ‘practical’ on school rapid testing amid U.S. supply crunch: advocates
Quebec and Alberta also announced new or expanded rapid antigen testing in schools this week. The tests are also already used in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.
The province currently offers a take-home PCR gargle test, but it is not widely available across British Columbia.
BC COVID-19 modelling group member Paul Tupper says rapid testing can be used as a way to detect the virus before symptoms emerge and could prevent spread in settings like schools.
“There are lots of ways we can use PCR tests. People are worried they are not as accurate. That is true. But they are also faster and easier to deploy,” Tupper said.
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