Amid surging new case numbers in British Columbia, Metro Vancouverites were left facing long lineups to be tested for COVID-19 on Thursday.
The province reported more than 750 new cases Thursday, a daily count that’s more than doubled in a week and which marks a six-week high.
The bulk of the new cases were in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) regions.
At the VCH testing centre in North Vancouver, cars were lined up for several blocks, as people sought to get tested ahead of seeing family for the holidays.
At the Heather Street test site in Vancouver, it was a similar scene, with those in line telling Global News they’d already been waiting more than two hours.
The Heather Street site is the only drive-through testing clinic in the City of Vancouver, after the health authority quietly closed a sister site at Vancouver Community College over in August citing “a significant reduction in demand.”
“I am getting flashbacks to the sort of early days of COVID, but hopefully it’s just a result of us being more aware,” said Rosy Arora, who was being tested after developing symptoms and someone at her office testing positive.
“There will be peace of mind once I test negative, hopefully, but right now the anxiety still exists.”
Restaurant server Tara Brady said she’d come to get tested after people in her extended social circle tested positive, and out of a sense of responsibility given that she works with the publics.
“If I have to take two hours out of my day just to be safe, I don’t mind,” she said.
“The rapid tests, they are very handy but we priced them to order them and it’s like $58 for five of them, so obviously that’s not sustainable.”
Brady wasn’t the only one with rapid tests on their mind.
Brick layer Patrick Doarty said access to the take home tests could potentially have spared him an afternoon waiting in line.
“My daughter in Ontario, she said they’re handing them out for free,” he said.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said earlier this week that rapid tests wouldn’t be available for home use until next month. the rapid tests B.C. currently has in stock can’t be done at home because they require a nurse to administer, and are in large packages that would need to be broken into smaller kits, she said.
The province is set to provide an update on its rapid test plan next Tuesday.
“We need to find ways to add capacity, to ensure that testing is available and readily available for people,” Opposition Leader Shirley Bond told Global’s Focus BC.
“And in addition to that, the government should be using every single tool that’s available to them. They’re asking British Columbians to do everything they can to reduce transmission — they need to be doing exactly the same thing when it comes to the provision of rapid tests, the provision of testing, and ensuring that we have vaccination clinics open so people can get their booster shots.”
Vancouver Coastal Health acknowledged that people may be waiting longer than usual for tests, and said it was “exploring ways to make the testing process as efficient as possible, without compromising patient safety and service quality.”
“Those who do not have symptoms are strongly advised not to access testing services to allow frontline providers to prioritize care to those who are most likely to be infected,” it added.
Global News has asked the province whether there is a plan to add more testing capacity in the coming days, and will update this story with a response.