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New approach for COVID-19 testing in Alberta targets at-risk populations

Alberta government changing who qualifies for a COVID-19 test
WATCH ABOVE: Wanting to put a greater focus on high risk patients, the Alberta government will no longer test travellers who returned home after March 12th with mild symptoms. Tom Vernon has the details.

Alberta will be changing its approach to COVID-19 testing, with a new format that prioritizes at-risk populations and those at the highest risk of exposure.

The changes, announced by Alberta Health on Monday, mean travellers returning to the province after March 12 who have mild symptoms will no longer be tested for the novel coronavirus. Instead, they will be asked to self-isolate at home and away from others.

“This change is effective going forward,” a news release stated. “So anyone who has already been told by Health Link that they will be tested will still get tested.”

READ MORE: 33 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta brings total to 259 on Sunday

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the change will allow Alberta’s testing capacity to focus on those most at risk.

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“This is consistent with the approach happening across Canada,” Hinshaw explained in a news release. “It will enable us to strategically use our testing resources.

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“Our new approach reflects the fact that the most important thing anyone can do if they have mild symptoms isn’t to get tested – it’s to stay home and self-isolate.”

READ MORE: ‘A plan is in place’: Alberta to begin enforcing social distancing

Testing will be prioritized for the following individuals — if they are symptomatic:

  • People who are hospitalized with respiratory illness.
  • Residents of continuing care and other similar facilities.
  • People who returned from travelling abroad between March 8 and March 12 (before the self-isolation protocols were in place).
  • Health-care workers with respiratory symptoms (this testing will begin later this week).

Anyone with symptoms who does not fit any of the above categories is asked to stay home and self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days from the start of their symptoms, or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.

The province’s online self-assessment tool has been updated to reflect the change in testing for returning travellers.

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.