More free rapid COVID-19 tests are making their way to some Alberta pharmacies and people are once again calling around and lining up to get their hands on them.
On Tuesday, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said millions more free test kits had arrived or were on the way.
“I’m pleased to share this week, that more than 3.1 million rapid tests will be sent to First Nation communities, pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer and Alberta Health Services sites in other parts of the province,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
“You can check the Blue Cross website that lists which locations have rapid test kits available. When you find a site that does have tests, simply bring your ID and Alberta health care card to receive a free kit.
“In addition to these tests for the general public, a second mask and test shipment for schools started last week and approximately one third has already gone out.”
Neil Forsyth was waiting in line at an Edmonton pharmacy for free tests on Wednesday morning.
“This is my third pharmacy. Two of them that were showing they did have them in stock didn’t,” he said.
“They could have been easier, more accessible. Obviously supply chain issues and relying on the federal government kind of hamstringed us a bit but hopefully it gets better.”
But waiting outside in the cold didn’t deter him.
“It’s worth the wait. A little chilly but I’m Canadian so I’ll suck it up.”
Keith Sandquist was also waiting in line Wednesday, hoping to get a kit or two for his young family.
“The wife sent me down for tests cause they’re so hard to come by,” he said. “We never got our free tests promised by the government.”
Having some rapid tests at home will provide Keith and his wife with some peace of mind, he said.
“We’ve got a newborn at home, and it’s not like we can go and get tested from AHS anymore.”
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Mohamed Elhamshary, pharmacist at 7 Days Pharmacy in Edmonton, said the pandemic has been overwhelming at times for those working in his field.
“Since the beginning of COVID, there’s a lot of uncertainty about even medications.”
On top of that uncertainty, Elhamshary said his pharmacy answers up to 20 phone calls a day — some not even patients — asking about symptoms, quarantine rules and testing.
“It’s OK in the sense that people trust pharmacists but it’s a bit overwhelming. At the end of the day, we’re here to help our community and our society, so I don’t mind doing that.”
He said he received one shipment of free rapid tests about four weeks ago but they were gone quickly.
“It’s frustrating for me to say that we don’t have any… It’s frustrating and overwhelming.”
There are other options for Albertans, he said.
“There are some tests that can be bought, but not everybody is willing to do so.
“If you have symptoms, don’t go out, don’t get in touch with other people until you feel fine.”
Elhamshary’s second shipment arrived Wednesday afternoon.
“There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”
There were 1,598 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, up from 1,585 on Tuesday. There were 106 Albertans in ICU with COVID-19, down from 109 on Tuesday.
Alberta Health announced Wednesday that 3,024 more COVID-19 cases were identified in the province over the past 24 hours out of 7,643 PCR tests. Public health officials have noted that because of restrictions on who is eligible to receive a PCR test, the true number of new COVID-19 cases is likely at least 10 times higher than the province is reporting.
There were 34,877 active cases confirmed by PCR tests in the province as of Wednesday.
The number of Albertans whose deaths have been ruled to be linked to COVID-19 rose by 14, up to 3,593 in total as of Wednesday.
The province’s positivity rate was 39.9 per cent.