Green party in New Brunswick calls for more access to rapid COVID-19 tests

The Green Party in New Brunswick is calling on the province to make access to rapid tests more accessible in New Brunswick. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

In New Brunswick, to get a rapid test, anyone with symptoms has to book an appointment to pick them up and that is prompting the New Brunswick Green Party to ask the government to make access to rapid antigen test more accessible.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, David Coon and Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton issued the plea.

“We know from experience that long weekends are followed by an uptick in COVID cases,” Coon said in the release. “New Brunswickers want to have peace of mind that they won’t be putting elderly or immunocompromised family members at risk by visiting them this long weekend.”

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Back in January, the province changed the requirements to access rapid point-of-care tests. A person must have symptoms, book an appointment online, and pick them up in person.

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PCR tests are only available to those 50 years old or over, those who are immunocompromised, and those living and working in vulnerable settings.

That approach isn’t what other provinces are doing, though, Coon said in the press release. In Nova Scotia, rapid tests are available widely, including in public libraries and MLA constituency offices.

MLA Megan Mitton questions how people can make proper assessments of their risks without the tools needed to do so.

Read more: New Brunswick reports 10 more deaths in weekly COVID-19 update

“Premier Blaine Higgs keeps saying he wants New Brunswickers to make decisions to protect themselves, but how can they do that when most don’t even have access to simple tools such as rapid tests?” Mitton said.

“He needs to make rapid tests accessible to all New Brunswickers by offering them in communities across the province.”

The Department of Health said access to rapid tests is not an issue in the province.

“We are aware that some locations are busier than others. However, every effort is made to ensure New Brunswickers have timely access to rapid tests with sites monitored for fluctuations in demand, and real-time adjustments made as needed,” said Bruce Macfarlane, department spokesperson.

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Macfarlane added tests are available to anyone who needs them, with about 1.9 million rapid tests having been distributed through the assessment centres in December alone.

“It is important to have mechanisms in place to manage volumes, and deter individuals from stockpiling,” he said in an email statement.

Health Canada provides the provinces with monthly allocations for rapid POCT procurement, based on population size, according to the statement.

He said there is no anticipated cost to the provincial government for rapid tests because of the continued commitment by the federal government.

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