COVID-19: How will proof of testing work in Saskatchewan?

Click to play video: 'How will proof of vaccination work in Saskatchewan?' How will proof of vaccination work in Saskatchewan?
WATCH: New measures in Saskatchewan forcing people to either get the jab or show a negative test mean more pressure on an already strained testing system. – Sep 17, 2021

On Thursday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe made it very clear that Saskatchewan will once again have a mask mandate.

He also announced a new COVID-19 testing policy in the province that had far fewer details.

The premise seems simple: you will need to show a proof of vaccination or present a recent, negative COVID-19 test when you enter things like restaurants, bars and gyms (but not for other places, like grocery stores and places of worship) starting Oct. 1.

And he said the province won’t pay for the tests.

“It is on you to procure, to pay for and find the private provider to provide you with that test,” he said, near the end of the press conference.

“You need a health care provider to provide it. And the rest of the province, through the Saskatchewan Health Authority, is not going to be paying for that test.”

Read more: SHA activates next surge plan level due to escalating COVID-19 cases

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He then said people must get their tests from private providers.

The fact that the requirement to show a recent test is now a need and no longer a recommendation raises a lot of questions.

Presumably it would drive up the demand for tests.

But the lines for the Saskatoon testing site already take hours to get through.

And if an unvaccinated person has to pay for their own test, that may mean they can’t get tested by the SHA, a taxpayer-funded entity.

So will SHA staff now check vaccination statuses? Will they turn away someone who doesn’t have both doses?

Moe said the government is developing the policies.

Read more: COVID-19: Saskatchewan brings mandatory masks back, proof of vaccination coming Oct. 1

A president of a company that offers COVID-19 tests — one of the handful that do in the province — said they were very busy before Thursday’s announcement testing people who want to travel, American hunters and people who work for mining operations.

“Every day we get more and more requests from workplaces,” Shirley Galloway said, speaking from Oxbow, Sask.  

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Galloway is the president of Nobel HSSE Ltd., an occupational health and safety firm. She said she employs approximately 25 testers between three sites across the province.

“We were fully booked a few days ago to do testing for the rider game both in Regina and Saskatoon and deployed mobile testing. So that really swamped us,” she told Global News.

Speaking the day after the announcement, she said she’s already received six calls about regular workplace testing.

“These are 200 to 1,000 workers that people are wanting to get tested,” she explained.

Click to play video: 'SHA prepares for its largest surge in COVID-19 cases' SHA prepares for its largest surge in COVID-19 cases
SHA prepares for its largest surge in COVID-19 cases – Sep 17, 2021

A key component of testing availability will be the frequency — how often the government or employer wants someone to get tested.

Another issue is the cost. Galloway said a rapid antigen test, which takes about 40 minutes in total, costs $90.

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The PCR test, which takes around 12 hours and which Galloway referred to as the gold standard of COVID-19 testing, costs about $350 for same-day results.

The former tests for COVID antigens, meaning what the body creates when the virus infects it, and the latter tests for the virus’ genetic material.

Galloway said medical professionals use PCR tests to confirm a positive antigen test.

She also stressed that the SHA only permits private testing sites to test asymptomatic people. Everyone experiencing symptoms should contact the 811 Healthline and get tested.

Global News asked the government and the SHA for more details on the announcement and the questions listed above, as well as several others.

Neither responded by deadline.

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