As Ontario, Quebec and Alberta act on their plans to provide at-home rapid tests for COVID-19, British Columbia is not yet ready to offer the same layer of protection.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said most of B.C.’s rapid tests can’t be done at home because they require a nurse to administer.
There are around 700,000 tests available for home use, but Henry has said it would be challenging to break down the large packages of testing fluid into dozens of kits.
“It’s really challenging to break those down. It takes a lot of time. It takes people power from a lab that has been running full steam, from public health people that have been running full steam,” she said, adding B.C. hopes that single-dose bottles of the testing solution to arrive by the end of the month.
In Nova Scotia, volunteers helped to break apart kits and distribute the testing fluid, allowing the province to distribute kits of five tests to the public.
Infectious diseases physician and medical micro-biologist Dr. Victor Leung has said B.C. should solicit volunteers as well.
“The ability to take an original kit of 25 kits and can then be broken up for distribution for the public — this is not difficult. In British Columbia, we have split tests before,” Leung said.
B.C. has been prioritizing rapid tests for areas with higher transmission and outbreaks, rather than for the general population.
For example, staff will break down about 10,000 rapid tests for the University of Victoria, after more than 100 cases were confirmed this week.
“We don’t have those test kits like the ones in Alberta that they’re sending out that come in a batch of five,” Henry said.
“The ones they’re using in the UK, which come in a kit of five with the solution for those five tests — we have not been able to get them in, in the numbers that would be helpful for us across Canada or here in B.C. yet.”
B.C. continues to focus on what it describes as the “best test, for the best person,” but Leung said it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation, adding that they would help people make decisions before attending holiday events or gathering in groups.
“Overall, in terms of the pros and the cons, it would be better to make it available first and then improving how it will be used,” Leung said.
“We need to ensure there is an education component, an awareness component, and then making it accessible and follow up if there is a positive.”