Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

Health Canada has given the green light to a rapid test for COVID-19 that could be deployed to long-term care homes and schools to take pressure off provincial testing systems.

But neither the company nor the federal government will be more specific about when the test kits will start arriving other than “the coming weeks.”

The department posted news Wednesday of the approval of the Abbott Diagnostics ID Now test, which can deliver results within 13 minutes of a patient being swabbed, without having to first send the specimen to a lab for processing.

The approval came a day after Public Services and Procurement Canada signed a deal to buy nearly eight million of the tests from the company, as well as 3,800 of the analyzer units that process the results.

“Health Canada has delivered on approvals in a rapid way,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in question period.

It’s not rapid enough for provinces where cases are surging and people are waiting hours in line to get tested and sometimes more than a week to get their results.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford applauded the approval Wednesday but said he wants to know when the tests will show up and when more approvals will follow.

“We would expect them to be delivered as quickly as possible,” he said. “We don’t have a moment to spare as cases continue to rise.”

Ford said Ottawa needs to approve even more rapid tests, including those already approved in other countries such as the United States.

This is the fourth test approved by Health Canada that can be completed outside a laboratory but the first to return results so quickly.

One was taken back off the list because it didn’t perform well. Another, the GeneExpert, has been used in Nunavut, Nunavik and northern Manitoba, and produces results in about an hour.

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23 but no deal to buy them has yet been made in Canada. It produces results in about 90 minutes.

The ID Now test was approved for use in the United States in the spring, and the company said in a written statement Wednesday it has already delivered 11 million of them south of the border.

“We’re pleased to bring this same point-of-care test to Canada to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the coming weeks,” the statement said.

A spokeswoman for Procurement Minister Anita Anand said 2.5 million tests are to be delivered before the end of the year to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The agency will then distribute them to provinces that need them.

The tests still need a trained health-care worker to take a swab from a patient’s nose but the portable analyzer units, which weigh less than three kilograms, can be taken nearly anywhere.

They are most likely to be sent to rural and remote communities that have limited if any access to labs to test for COVID-19, or high-risk locations like schools and long-term care facilities where being able to test a lot of people quickly is effective and helpful.

They cannot be used for testing at home.

Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease physician at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, said it will be critical to determine which provinces get the tests first and which locations are prioritized for their use. But he said getting them at all is a good step.

“We needed them yesterday, so to speak, rather than, you know, six weeks from now,” he said. “And I can’t imagine that we’re going to be getting them in the next couple of weeks. So on that side I am definitely disappointed and I would have liked to have seen us have had them earlier, that’s for sure.”

Dr. Prabhat Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said rapid tests should be used first to protect the health care system by testing health workers, and people at long-term care homes. But he said after that, rapid tests can be a big help to keeping the economy going, such as by deploying them at airports and in other key industries that need to get back to normal business.

“It’s not sustainable for us to think the only tool that we have is to go back into a lockdown,” he said. “That would be a complete disaster.”

Mia Rabson and Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

The cover photo of an emergency food and nutrition strategy prepared for the City of Nanaimo’s health and housing task force. (Maddy Koch photo/City of Nanaimo)
City of Nanaimo will consider the creation of a food policy council

Working group says new arm’s-length body could help with food security in the region

Clockwise from top left: panelist Jacomien van Tonder, moderator Kerry Slavens and panellists Paul Shorthouse and Ross Blackwell discussed the concepts behind the circular economy during a session at the State of the Island Economic Summit on Wednesday. (Vancouver Island Economic Alliance image)
Island economic summit panellists discuss sustainability based on ‘doughnut’ model

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance summit panel examines modern production of goods

An arrest warrant has been issued for Brian Thomas, of Nanaimo, who is accused of throwing a “spear-like object” at a vehicle. (Photo submitted)
Warrant out for Nanaimo man who allegedly threw ‘spear-like object’ at vehicle

Brian Thomas failed to make court appearance, say RCMP

Items seized over four days of targeted vehicle checks Nanaimo and Victoria by members of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. (CFSEU-BC photo)
Gang enforcement team seizes drugs and weapons in Nanaimo and Victoria

Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. checked 33 vehicles over four days

Nanaimo RCMP Bike Patrol Unit members ride past Wesley Street on Tuesday morning. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo RCMP investigate knife threat, make arrest for alleged drug trafficking

Drugs, cash and knife found in belongings of man who matched description of suspect

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Commissioner Austin Cullen looks at documents before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
RCMP lacked dedicated team to investigate illegal activities at casino, inquiry hears

Hearings for the inquiry are set to continue into next week and the inquiry is expected to wrap up next year

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Court approves money for B.C. foster children alleging harm from Kelowna social worker

The maximum combined total award for basic payments and elevated damages for an individual is $250,000

MMFN First Nation has said that it will restrict access to portion of Highway 28 that passes through the Nation’s land until a road use agreement is reached. (Black Press file photo)
Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River

Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation restricting access for Western Forest Products pending road deal

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never-before-seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Most Read