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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Shop owners Joanna and Aysha Haines celebrate their shop’s grand opening on Jan. 22. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)
Refillery and lifestyle shop opens in Fernie

Drift and Sonder offers locals a wide range of sustainable, low-waste lifestyle products

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

(File Photo)
Sparwood accepting submissions for 2021 Street Art Banner Program

Artwork depicting a love for Sparwood’s community and heritage will be accepted until Feb. 19

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

The fine for changing lanes or merging over a solid line costs drivers $109 and two penalty points in B.C. (Screenshot via Google Street View)
B.C. drivers caught crossing, merging over solid white lines face hefty fine

Ticket for $109, two penalty points issued under Motor Vehicle Act for crossing solid lines

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Most Read