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BC planning expansion of COVID-19 rapid testing program in coming weeks

British Columbia is planning to expand its COVID-19 rapid testing program as millions more kits arrive in the province.

Provincial health officials said BC is expecting to receive at least 11 million rapid antigen tests by mid-January as part of Canada’s order of 84 million kits.

BC is separately expecting 200,000 Panbio nasal swab kits by Dec. 31 and 500,000 BTNX nasal swab tests late in December.

<who> Photo credit: 123RF

Between mid-December and mid-January, the province expects to have access to about 2.6 million tests, allowing an expansion of the current 35,000-per-week testing program.

That means:

  • 700,000 tests at collection sites for symptomatic people

  • 100,000 tests for long term care staff and visitors

  • 100,000 tests at acute care sites for symptomatic staff/close contacts

  • 1.2 million tests for symptomatic testing/case and contact management in Indigenous and vulnerable communities

  • 250,000 tests for businesses and organization to expand the Rapid COVID-19 Point of Care Screening Program

  • 250,000 tests for case/contact management and outbreaks handled by regional health authorities

With the arrival of the expected 11 million kits from the federal government, health officials said they will distribute tests in the following way:

  • About seven million will be reserved for public health and health authorities to help manage community transmission through distribution to cases/contacts and clusters/outbreaks, and to protect the clinically extremely vulnerable and 70+ populations

  • 500,000 tests will be provided for K-12 students and staff to be used as needed to support the return to school and continuity of in-person learning

  • 500,000 tests will be provided for post-secondary symptomatic students, faculty and staff

  • Three million tests will be provided to people in long term care, health care, rural/remote or Indigenous communities, businesses and other organizations, and for case/contact management

The province is also planning to assess the effectiveness of its expanded rapid testing program through December and January.

That means monitoring demand and consulting with health authorities to determine where best to send future supplies of test kits.

Health officials stressed that they are aware of long line-ups for tests and urged people in the province to only get tested if they are symptomatic.

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