Waiting hours at COVID-19 test clinics, British Columbians hope rapid tests come soon

 

COVID-19 testing centres across parts of B.C. continued to be very busy over the weekend, as some people reported having to wait hours in line amid the threat of the new Omicron variant.

On Saturday, drivers were waiting for about two hours at the testing centre in North Vancouver.

As of Monday morning, wait times at sites in the Vancouver Coastal Health region also showed around a two-hour wait.

Last week, amid a federal advisory against non-essential travel, the upcoming holidays, and the latest B.C. data estimating a worst-case scenario of 2,000 new cases per day by Dec. 29, people started to flock back to testing centres.

On Thursday, cars were lined up for several blocks at the facility in North Vancouver. It was a similar scene at the Heather Street site in Vancouver, with those in line telling Global News they’d been waiting more than two hours.

The Heather Street site is the only drive-through test clinic in Vancouver, after the health authority quietly closed a sister site at Vancouver Community College in August citing “a significant reduction in demand.”

Residents in Mission, Chilliwack and Abbotsford were able to pick up rapid-test kits over the weekend, but these kits are not available for all British Columbians yet.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said most of B.C.’s rapid tests can’t be done at home because a nurse must administer them.

The province has around 700,000 tests for home use, but Henry said the challenge has been breaking down the large packages of testing fluid into dozens of kits. She said she hopes single-dose bottles of the testing solution will arrive by the end of December.

Other provinces have already started rapid test programs.

In Nova Scotia, volunteers helped to break apart kits and distribute the testing fluid, allowing the province to hand out kits to the public.

The Alberta government distributed more than 157,000 rapid-test kits on Friday, amid huge demand ahead of the holidays.

Quebecers lined up outside pharmacies Monday morning to get their hands on free rapid-test kits.

And in Ontario, officials announced the province would distribute two million free rapid tests through pop-up locations such as malls, retail stores including liquor stores, holiday markets, public libraries and transit hubs.

While rapid tests are less accurate than PCR tests at identifying the virus, rapid antigen tests have become an everyday part of the public health response in countries like the U.K. and Germany, where they are cheap and readily available.

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