Interim B.C. Liberal leader Shirley Bond questions the NDP government in the legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)

Interim B.C. Liberal leader Shirley Bond questions the NDP government in the legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)

COVID-19 rapid test pilot program all B.C. can do now, Dix says

B.C. Liberals call for increased senior home testing

B.C.’s rapid test capacity for pre-symptom COVID-19 detection is being tested in health care and for high-risk rural populations, but the tests aren’t licensed for wider-scale use to protect senior homes from infection, Health Minister Adrian Dix says.

With B.C.’s coronavirus infection and death rate climbing, particularly in care facilities, the opposition B.C. Liberals took up the issue of rapid testing of care home staff that was proposed in November by Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie. Questioned about the issue as a brief session of the legislature began this week, Dix said better protection of seniors in care is the highest priority, but the available rapid tests in B.C. won’t do the job.

“The rapid tests that have been sent to us are not successful or effective in dealing with asymptomatic testing and, in any event, haven’t been sent to us in the numbers available to put in place such a system. It would not be effective,” Dix told the legislature Dec. 8. “That said, as with everything else, we are trying absolutely everything, including a pilot project, to see in what ways they could be effective in our province. Rapid testing is also being used and being piloted in other areas where vulnerable people live, from the Downtown Eastside to rural communities.”

Interim B.C. Liberal leader Shirley Bond said the announcement this week of the province’s pilot program in a small number of long-term care homes brings hope to residents and their families in a frightening situation.

RELATED: 4,000 vaccine doses coming for high-risk residents

RELATED: Big holes in NDP’s COVID-19 Christmas bonus plan

Dix replied that the Mackenzie’s position is understood, but she is not qualified to make decisions in technical public health issues such as rapid testing. He said the best strategy to stop the spiral of infection and death in care homes is vaccination, which the province will start to roll out next week, with care home staff and residents at the top of the list.

“We have been using rapid tests in appropriate circumstances, and that action is guided by the leading experts in public health that we have,” Dix said. “With great respect to the seniors advocate, who the leader of the opposition cites as evidence, this is not her area of expertise. The fact is that the rapid tests are not licensed, even, for asymptomatic people and that we have a better overall plan to address symptomatic people in long-term care.”

Dix confirmed for B.C. Liberal health critic Renee Merrifield that B.C. has received 131 rapid test machines and 27,000 test kits from the federal government. Even if they were licensed for use on people not showing symptoms, there are not enough of them to do the type of daily screening proposed, he said. A similar limitation exists for antibody tests, which use a deep swab similar to those used for nucleic acid amplification (NAT) tests for the virus.

“We’ve received approximately a little under 500,000 of the Panbio antigen tests. All of them, of course, require a nasopharyngeal swab,” Dix said. “All of them require a health care worker to do the swab. All of them are not licensed for use except in people who are symptomatic, and even in the case of people who are symptomatic, they are not as able to pick up the virus as the regular NAT tests that we do on an ongoing basis in B.C.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politicsCoronavirus

Just Posted

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for parts of Vancouver Island this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Sorting food to deliver to community members isolating due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Back row from left: Philomena Wilson, Sosefina Aleck, Ethan Wilson and Lucetta Wilson. In front is Kennedy Aleck. (Submitted)
Pandemic, racism inspires food drive that is warming hearts and filling bellies

Cowichan woman’s food drive helps feed members in isolation and missing traditional gatherings

SD62 bus driver Kerry Zado said it’s common to see drivers lose their patience and pass by his bus while he’s picking up students during the morning commute. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Concerned Island school bus driver says people still pass while red lights flashing

All buses in Sooke School District outfitted with stop sign cameras

Handwashing is one of the important COVID-19 precautions. (File photo)
Editorial: Time to knuckle down on COVID precautions

It would be foolish to think that we have not had any COVID cases in Cowichan until now

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

Port Alberni Fire Department deputy Chief Wes Patterson, right, talks to an RCMP member at an incident involving the former Acklands-Grainger building at Third Avenue and Dunbar Street, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
‘Heavy smoke’ turns out to be moisture-laden air venting from cannabis operation

Port Alberni fire crews discover cannabis operation after being called to industrial building

(Pixabay)
Outbreak declared over at Victoria’s Hart House long-term care

One staff member tested positive on Jan. 9

A video captured by Twitter user Teddy Jenner of a fire in Beacon Hill Park the night of Jan. 21, 2021. (Twitter/@OfftheCrosseBar)
Victoria police say no injuries after tent fire in Beacon Hill Park

Emergency crews responded to fire Thursday evening

An architectural rendering provides a look at PC Urban’s proposal for three buildings on the former Galaxy Motors property at 1764 Island Hwy. in Colwood. (Rendering courtesy of PC Urban)
Commercial/industrial development planned for former Galaxy Motors site

Colwood proposal goes to public hearing Jan. 25

Mark Braunagel fills the back seat of his truck with backpacks and bags full of supplies the Grade 9 leadership class at ADSS collected for some of Port Alberni’s vulnerable people. (Jan. 15, 2021) (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Alberni high school students fill backpacks to help city’s homeless

Junior leadership students embraced service project, said teacher Mike Roberts

Most Read