Island pharmacies note rise in rapid test demand as BA.5 wave begins

Island pharmacies note rise in rapid test demand as BA.5 wave begins

Anyone can pick up a free box of rapid test kits at B.C. pharmacies and several pharmacies tell CHEK News they’ve seen a big jump in demand in the past week or two.

“When we see an increase in demand in tests, it is indicative that there is probably an increase in the number of infections in the community,” said pharmacist Lindsay Dixon with Heart Pharmacy.

A seventh wave fueled by the BA.5 Omicron variant is just beginning in B.C. with cases starting to climb higher.

The province limits testing mostly to those over 70, but it did report 1,044 new cases from July 10 to 16 — an increase from the 973 cases reported the week earlier.

While the latest numbers show hospital admissions down from the previous week, they did rise in Island health from 41 to 44, and deaths also jumped from four to seven. The latest numbers reported for last week are expected to rise even higher as more data becomes available.

On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden announced he has tested positive for COVID-19. Although he’s nearly 80 years old, the president said he is feeling fine in a video posted to Twitter.

Biden, who is fully vaccinated and double boosted, is being treated with the anti-viral Paxlovid, a treatment also available in B.C.

READ MORE: Biden tests positive for COVID-19, has ‘mild symptoms’

Health experts say the president’s diagnosis is a reminder for everyone to get their booster dose if they haven’t already. Local pharmacies are seeing high demand for boosters and other COVID-19 vaccinations with clinics fully booked.

“Some pharmacies are noting an increase even in first and second doses right now,” said Dixon.

Modellers are predicting the latest wave could be bigger than the last BA.2 wave which hit B.C. in April and May, putting greater strain on our healthcare system, and warn there will be more variants and subvariants to come.

“One thing we do know is this virus will continue to evolve, there’s no notion that five is the last BA number or that Omicron is the last variant and I think that’s going to be an ongoing challenge,” said researcher Caroline Colijn with the BC COVID-19 Modelling Group.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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