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Lethbridge pharmacy announces asymptomatic COVID-19 testing despite province keeping quiet

A Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in Lethbridge is providing asymptomatic COVID-19 testing.
A Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in Lethbridge is providing asymptomatic COVID-19 testing. Eloise Therien / Global News

One of four Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy locations in Lethbridge, Alta., has been selected to provide asymptomatic COVID-19 testing, according to its owner.

The province announced the pilot project on June 25, which saw 20 pharmacies across the province start offering testing for anyone without symptoms of the virus. The move was made in an effort to make testing more accessible.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced last month the locations were mostly in Calgary and Edmonton.

However, the province did not disclose which locations were selected, to avoid overwhelming the individual pharmacies.

Read more: Some Alberta pharmacies are testing for coronavirus, but you’ll have to call around

Vishal Sukhadiya, pharmacist and owner of the selected Medicine Shoppe location in Lethbridge, says the business feels ready to let residents know about the new service.

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“[We] wanted to make sure that we’re comfortable with implementing the procedures,” he said. “I am comfortable saying that certainly we are open to doing testing on a large scale.”

Anyone with symptoms is not permitted to partake in the testing at the pharmacies.

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Rather, Alberta Health Services says those with symptoms must call 811 or book an appointment through the online self-assessment tool and follow all the proper instructions for self-isolation.

Asymptomatic individuals can still book a test through AHS.

Read more: Lethbridge councillors ask for delay in conversion therapy ban, want public hearing

Sukhadiya says they started conducting the throat swabs on Tuesday, and completed 20 tests by the end of Friday. He says none have come back positive so far, with results arriving within about two days.

“If it is negative, it is our sole responsibility to notify the client,” he said. “If it becomes positive, then certainly we report to [the client] and so does [Alberta Health].”
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He says increasing testing among asymptomatic individuals will help the medical community better understand the virus.

“We want to understand the prevalence of the disease,” Sukhadiya explained. “How it is prevalent in different communities around Alberta.”

“In a long-term strategy, it will also reduce a little bit of load from the Alberta Health screening centres.”

After receiving an email from RxA (Alberta Pharmacists’ Association), Sukhadiya believes the names of other pharmacies providing the testing will be released starting next week “once everyone is comfortable.”

The Medicine Shoppe encourages anyone wanting to book a test to call the location directly.