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As inventory grows, B.C. to offer free COVID-19 tests to general public

Click to play video: 'B.C. to distribute rapid tests to the general public, health minister confirms'
B.C. to distribute rapid tests to the general public, health minister confirms
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix confirms that in the coming weeks, students in elementary, secondary and post-secondary institutions will have the opportunity to take home a COVID-19 test kit to use if they become sick – Feb 15, 2022

The B.C. government plans to distribute rapid, take-home tests for COVID-19 to students and the general public in the coming weeks.

More than 2.87 million tests are currently in transit, said Health Minister Adrian Dix, and over 9.9 million more are scheduled for shipping to B.C.

If all the anticipated tests arrive on time, parents of school-aged children can expect roughly 3.8 million test kits to come home in backpacks, while post-secondary students will have access to 2.1 million kits.

Read more: B.C. to drop capacity limits, reopen nightclubs and bars as Omicron spread wanes

It’s an “important shift” in the rapid testing approach, Dix said in a Tuesday pandemic briefing.

“Students will be offered, in the coming weeks, the opportunity to take home one five-test kit for their and their families’ future use if they were to become symptomatic,” he explained.

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“Assuming the in-transit delivery of 2.87 million tests arrives later this week, we also anticipate starting distribution at no cost to citizens, to the broader community.”

Rapid tests will be offered first to seniors, continuing the province’s focus on “higher-risk individuals,” he added, but will expand to all British Columbians as the inventory grows.

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Change in health restrictions could make some ‘uncomfortable,’ says Dr. Bonnie Henry

As it stands, B.C. has access to roughly 8.8 million rapid tests for COVID-19.

Nearly 5.6 million aren’t suitable for personal use and will be used at the discretion of medical health officers to manage clusters and outbreaks of the virus across the province, said Dix.

When additional tests arrive later this week, the minister said about 720,000 will be sent to COVID-19 test sites provincewide, 200,000 will go to acute care centres for health-care workers and staff, and 100,000 will go to visitors and staff in long-term care homes.

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An allotment of 300,000 tests will go to Indigenous, rural and remote communities, and to various businesses and organizations.

Read more: Feds scrapping pre-arrival COVID PCR test requirement for fully vaccinated travellers

The additional supply comes as British Columbia drops most public health restrictions related to COVID-19, including indoor and outdoor gathering limits, and the prohibition on wedding and funeral receptions, bars and nightclubs.

Proof of vaccination and masking will continue, however, at all events and places where they’re currently required, including restaurants. The changes come into effect at midnight on Wednesday.

Hospitalizations and COVID-19 spread in the province are trending in the right direction, but the province’s guidance on use of rapid tests has not changed.

Even with the added supply, Dix said rapid tests should only be used by symptomatic residents who wish to understand their symptoms and prevent viral spread to those around them.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the number of test kits that will be sent home to school-aged children.

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