The Federal Government has signaled its intention to deliver 140 million COVID–19 rapid tests across the country.
British Columbia is set to receive 13.5% of those tests or over 18 million through January and February.
In the next week, 600,000 tests are anticipated to arrive with the initial batch to be distributed to symptomatic healthcare workers in acute care.
Once healthcare facilities have received their supply, symptomatic teachers and school staff will be next on BC’s priority list to receive these rapid tests.
Although there is a plan in place to distribute these COVID-19 rapid tests once they arrive, BC’s Health Officials wanted to make it clear that we do not have them yet.
“We’ve seen some frustration of people wanting access to both PCR tests and rapid tests and are taking that out on healthcare workers at our testing centers,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“Please know that we have limited supply, and we do need to use tests where they are most appropriate to protect people. Making sure that people can go back to essential workplaces and to be able to identify people who may be more at risk for severe illness.”
The province will focus on providing rapid tests to people over 55, people who are pregnant, people who are working in high-risk settings like hospitals, long-term care, and many remote or rural communities, or those with high-risk medical conditions.
While BC begins to receive these rapid tests, Henry stressed that they are solely being used to slow or stop outbreaks.
“They are used as a red light to help us understand if they are positive, that somebody has COVID or if COVID is in an area or community,” she said.
“It is not being used as a green light to allow for people to socialize as we’ve seen been used in other places. Every rapid test has been allocated to settings where risk is highest and where the test will have the greatest impact. That has been our focus here.”
BC currently holds an inventory of 1,139,112 tests, but approximately half of those are not suitable for deployment of personal use as they require special equipment or must be administered by a healthcare professional.
The remaining tests are being used to replenish covid testing sites, as well as supply businesses and organizations working through a point of care screening program.
Expansion for the rapid test program to include more groups of individuals will be determined at a later date.
Henry added: “If you are fully vaccinated, at a lower risk, and have mild symptoms you don't need a test.”
If an individual is sick, with mild symptoms like a runny nose or a cough it's 'very likely' they have COVID-19. Henry asked people who do not need to get tested, to monitor their symptoms and self-isolate for at least five days.
More information can be found on the BCCDC to help with any concerns an individual may have, or people can call 8-1-1 to speak with a healthcare professional.