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

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

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 Nanaimo area this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Nanaimo City Hall. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo councillors like new sustainable buying policy

Finance and audit committee recommends council approve new procurement policy

Action at the Nanaimo Curling Centre. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo sports organizations qualify for COVID-19 relief funding

Province announces support for curling, rowing, gymastics, softball, rugby, squash, football clubs

FOI records provided to the News Bulletin from the City of Nanaimo in 2018. (News Bulletin file photo)
Samra’s numerous FOI requests to City of Nanaimo aren’t ‘vexatious,’ privacy commissioner decides

Former CAO says records will assist her in a future B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

The cost of potentially counting deer regionwide was among the issues that prompted Capital Regional District committee members to vote against pursuing a greater CRD role in deer management. (Black Press Media file photo)
Expanded deer management a non-starter for Greater Victoria

Capital Regional District committee maintains current level of support

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Jan. 21 marks the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, according to some. (Black Press Media file photo)
The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century is upon us

Milestone won’t be back for another 100 years

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Most Read