Rapid tests roll out in New Brunswick’s circuit breaker zones

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick distributing COVID-19 rapid test kits to some communities'
New Brunswick distributing COVID-19 rapid test kits to some communities
WATCH: New Brunswick says it will be rolling out COVID-19 rapid tests to areas of the province now under circuit-breaker restrictions. As Nathalie Sturgeon reports, at least one community wants the rapid tests now, before more people become ill. – Oct 14, 2021

Mayor Marianne Bell in Perth Andover, N.B., doesn’t want anyone else to die because of a lack of COVID-19 testing resources.

“I know of several people who are in the hospital sick right now,” she said in an interview Thursday. “I know people might not get off a ventilator right now and I know there are some pockets of people who are nervous about testing and we just have to remove every obstacle to getting them tested and the treatment they need.”

There are no testing centers available directly in the community, Bell said. People who need or want to be tested have to travel to Hartland or Grand Falls — more than a half-hour to 45 minutes away from the community.

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Bell said there are people who either do not have a vehicle or cannot afford to pay to get to those other locations, which means they don’t get tested.

She also worries greatly about community spread. People who are fully vaccinated are less likely to show symptoms but can still spread the virus and almost the same number of vaccinated people are testing positive as those who are unvaccinated, according to the most recent GNB data.

Click to play video: 'Breaking down breakthrough cases: How COVID-19 impacts the fully vaccinated'
Breaking down breakthrough cases: How COVID-19 impacts the fully vaccinated

Circuit breakers get rapid tests

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On Thursday, Public Health announced it would roll out rapid tests in the circuit breaker zones which includes Perth Andover. 

It was a partial reversal of the stance Dr. Jennifer Russell took earlier this week saying there would be no widespread public access to rapid tests.

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“It is so important that anyone who has a positive result on a rapid test contacts an assessment centre to get a PCR test,” said Russell in the release. “Everyone must remember that a rapid test reflects a person’s status for that moment in time.”

The accuracy of rapid tests

Epidemiologist Susanne Gulliver said rapid tests would be helpful in the situation New Brunswick is facing but stressed caution, adding there is a risk of inaccuracy with rapid tests.

“They’d be pretty helpful. The thing with rapid testing is that it’s not as accurate. It’s most accurate when you’re at your most infectious because it detects the presence of the protein from parts of the virus,” she said in an interview Thursday.

However, she believes the rapid tests would be more helpful than harmful.

“It would also keep people aware that COVID is still an issue,” she said. “A lot of people have gotten the incorrect impression that this is over and it’s just about over — it’s not.”

Nova Scotia has rapid tests widely available to the public.

According to Health Canada, they sent roughly 1.1 million tests to New Brunswick as of Sept. 7. That number has since increased to 1.8 million. The province has used 580,000 so far.

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