As lineups at coronavirus testing sites surge at health clinics across Canada, so does the demand for more rapid results.
There are around 12 point-of-care rapid tests awaiting review from Health Canada. One rapid test was approved on Friday — the Hyris bCUBE, which must be used in a medical setting.
Health Canada has not yet approved any at-home test options.
Health Canada said on Tuesday it is still reviewing many rapid testing applications and as soon as they meet the regulatory standards, more will be approved.
The rapid tests look for antigens, or proteins found on the surface of the virus. They are generally considered less accurate — though much faster — than higher-grade genetic tests, known as PCR tests. Those tests require processing with specialty lab equipment and chemicals. Typically that turnaround takes several days to deliver results to patients.
On Tuesday, the Conservatives blasted the government for not having rapid and at-home testing available for Canadians.
“Many of our G-7 allies already have access to rapid and at-home testing and now they are contributing to an initiative to ensure that low-income countries have those same tests. So why don’t Canadians have those tests?” Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner said in a statement.
“COVID-19 cases are surging across Canada, lineups to get a test can be hours long, and there are reports that people are being forced to self-isolate for days as they wait for their test results. Justin Trudeau needs to explain why he has made no progress in getting at-home and rapid testing deployed in our country.”
On Monday, the World Health Organization announced that it’s planning to roll out 120 million rapid-diagnostic tests for the coronavirus to help lower- and middle-income countries make up ground in the testing gap with richer countries — even if it’s not fully funded yet.
The federal government has set a goal to be able to test 200,000 people per day in the event demand becomes that great. But so far, testing remains way off the target as backlogs continue.
In the last week, about 70,000 COVID-19 tests were conducted daily across the country.
The tests have been highlighted as an urgent need by politicians like Ontario Premier Doug Ford in recent days as a means to reduce long lines and rising tempers at testing centres.
Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the federal government is focused on procuring any rapid tests as soon as they are approved by Health Canada regulators, but won’t act before that approval is in hand.
“We need to be ready to pounce,” she said. “Our government is going to be ready to jump in and buy these medicines and technology for our country.”
Freeland stressed the importance of waiting for health officials’ approval, as any pressure by the federal government to help speed the process could result in some of the “dangerous consequences” being seen elsewhere in the world.
— With files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly and The Associated Press
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