B.C. to ramp up rapid testing, expand at-home kits in January

B.C. health officials on Tuesday said they will expand access to rapid COVID-19 tests, but take-home kits will not be available in the province until the new year.

The province is currently using around 35,000 tests per week, officials said. This is expected to climb as the program expands.

B.C. is expecting an inventory of about 2,600,000 tests

One of the priority areas will be to make at-home rapid tests available at sample collection sites for people who are showing symptoms. About 700,000 tests will be available at the collection sites and will help ease some of the pressure on the current testing system, officials said.

Another 100,000 tests will go to staff, residents and visitors in long-term care, while an additional 100,000 tests will be made available at acute care sites for symptomatic staff and/or close contacts.

Rural, remote, Indigenous, and vulnerable communities will receive 1,200,000 tests for symptomatic testing, and for case and contact management. An additional half-million tests will be sent to businesses and to manage outbreaks in the general population.

B.C. is expecting the federal government to deliver 200,000 of the Panbio brand of rapid tests by the end of the year. The province has also purchased 500,000 tests of the BTNX brand with nasal swabs, anticipated to arrive in late December.

Other provinces have been sending tests home, while B.C. has been criticized for a slow response

With an expected available inventory of up to 11 million tests, B.C. will then expand rapid testing to provide publicly funded tests at additional locations in the community.

About seven million tests will be reserved for public health and health authorities to help manage community transmission.

The K-to-12 education system will receive 500,000 tests for students and staff to be deployed as needed to support the return to school and continued in-person learning.

An extra 500,000 rapid tests will be made available to post-secondary institutions for symptomatic students, faculty, and staff, and to support a healthy and safe return to campus.

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