The New Brunswick government announced the province’s first confirmed cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant Monday, prompting tighter restrictions and increased availably of take-home, rapid-test kits.
While typically less reliable than the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, the antigen tests can deliver results in under 15 minutes, making them a good option to help control transmission before family gatherings and public events.
According to both the Horizon Health Network and Vitalité Health Network, rapid tests are designed for individuals two years of age and older who do not have COVID-19 symptoms and who have not been identified as a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case.
They say rapid test kits include five tests to be used over a 10-day period.
According to the government, anyone who receives a positive rapid-test result or who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms must isolate and book a PCR test at an assessment centre immediately.
In a release, the government says that due to the high number of positive cases among students in Zone 3 (Fredericton area), rapid test kits are being sent home with all students from kindergarten to Grade 8 in the area.
In Zone 3 schools with active cases, students are required to use rapid testing on a regular basis to help manage the risk of transmission. Only staff identified as close contacts are required to test regularly.
Students in Zone 3 schools that have had no active cases in the past 14 days are not required to test daily, but it is recommended.
“Families at other schools in the province impacted by COVID-19 are also encouraged to pick up rapid tests. If their child has been identified as a close contact, the tests will be provided through their school; otherwise, they are available from the nearest pick-up location,” the release said.
Rapid test kits are available at a variety of locations throughout the province. A complete list of rapid test pick-up sites is available on the Horizon Health Network and Vitalité Health Network websites. There are also mobile pick-up locations in the Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton and Miramichi areas.
The province hasn’t said how many rapid test kits there are in total, but Vitalité Health Network says the number of tests at each site is limited and that some locations could be out of stock.
Businesses with under 300 employees are also encouraged to partake in the Workplace Point of Care Testing Program, which provides employees with rapid tests.
The New Brunswick government says it is also working with the Canadian Red Cross to send COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to eligible non-profits, charities and community organizations with workers living in New Brunswick.