Provinces to receive large shipments of rapid tests: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Provinces to receive large shipments of rapid tests: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
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The federal government is ramping up delivery of rapid tests to the provinces as tests run scarce across the country and access to molecular tests is restricted.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says 140 million tests will be distributed in January on a per-capita basis.

That’s four times the number delivered in December, Duclos said. It would allow every Canadian to have about one test per week for the month of January, he said.

In its December fiscal update, the government earmarked $1.7 billion to secure a supply of about 180 million rapid tests to combat the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which has since spread at a record rate across the country.

“I think we all understand that rapid testing is going to be part of the path through it,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference Wednesday.

According to the latest figures from Health Canada, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has fuelled 344,140 active cases across the country.

There is no telling precisely how many cases there truly are in Canada as many provinces have restricted access to molecular tests to prioritize high-risk people, such as health workers.

That doesn’t mean public health officials aren’t monitoring the spread, said chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam. “We are doing more daily tests than any other period during this pandemic,” Tam said.

Given the volume of tests, though not sufficient to detect all individual cases, public health can still track the trends and identify community spread, she said.

Several provinces have instructed people who receive a positive rapid-test result to assume they have been infected with COVID-19 and self-isolate.

Access to the tests has been spotty, however, and not everyone has been able to take advantage of the at-home solution.

Trudeau said the distribution is entirely up to the provinces for the vast majority of Canada’s rapid test supply.

Tam said the data is still coming in, but some tests will detect the Omicron variant. The challenge is how quickly people develop the infection after they’ve been exposed.

“One just has to remember that if you tested negative in the morning, that doesn’t mean that you may not test negative later on,” Tam said.

Rapid tests are considered less effective than molecular tests, such as PCR tests.

Over the holidays Ontario and Quebec shortened the length of isolation periods for infected people by half, to just five days.

Tam’s deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo said it’s still possible to be contagious five days after the onset of symptoms, but provinces have tried to strike a balance between policies to stymie the spread of the highly contagious variant while allowing society to continue to function.

He said the federal public health agency is in discussions with provinces and the Centers for Disease Control in the United States about the ideal isolation period.

Trudeau repeated his call for Canadians to get vaccinated and confirmed there are enough vaccine doses in Canada for everyone in the country to get their booster.

Duclos said there will be enough child-sized doses for all kids aged five to 11 this month.

Trudeau said he’s “very aware” of the hardships public health measures and closures of businesses and schools are having on people.

“I can understand the frustration that parents are feeling. I went through the same puzzlement over the weekend,” he said about trying to figure out when his kids would attend school, and whether they would be there in person or on the computer.

“All these challenges that parents are trying to adjust to and adapt to, at the same time as we’re dealing with public health restrictions, is not easy.”

The prime minister promised a better spring, “as long as well all keep doing our part.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2022.


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