B.C. is sitting on millions of rapid tests. What’s the plan for using them?

Apr 26, 2021 | 42-1, Blog, Question Period, Video | 0 comments

We see examples of jurisdictions around the world who are effectively using rapid testing regimes to identify asymptomatic COVID-19 cases. This information can be used to better inform government decision-making.

The provincial government has 2.7 million rapid tests. To date 13% of the tests have been allocated and only 1% have been used.

While the BC NDP has outlined how they intend on using rapid testing on the provincial government website, it remains unclear the role rapid tests will play in navigating our way out of this global pandemic.

In Question Period, asked Hon. Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, about his plans.

[Transcript]

A. Olsen:

British Columbia has a stockpile of 2.7 million rapid tests. Those tests produce results in 30 minutes. Out of those tests, we’ve used 24,000. It’s less than 1 percent. This period is critical as this third wave, with multiple variants of concern spreading like wildfire around the province…. We’ve only used 1 percent of the rapid tests available to us.

My question is to the Minister of Health. Why has this government not used 99 percent of the rapid tests at our disposal?

Hon. A. Dix:

Thank you very much to the member for his question. Our policy, with respect to rapid testing, has been determined by the public health experts who we used to guide this policy. When we received rapid tests originally from the federal government in November, we moved to have them validated, because the federal government doesn’t have the ability to do that. We did more than 40 pilot projects.

Then we established a policy for their use on March 4. This policy was determined by public health, and determined by the recommendations of the national committee, which had provided advice on how to use rapid testing. Unlike other jurisdictions which had politicians setting testing policy, here in British Columbia we followed the excellent advice that was provided by Dr. Bonnie Henry and others in public health as to when it is appropriate to do this testing.

We are using rapid tests more in British Columbia and we will do in the future. But the gold standard test, the PCR test, the one that we’ve used millions of in B.C. — that continues to guide policy, while rapid testing, in many circumstances, can help support that gold standard testing.

Mr. Speaker:

The member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.

A. Olsen:

Just wanted to make sure you had a chance to cheer the answer. Thank you to the minister for the response. We see the Prime Minister standing, I think, in front of Canadians just a week and a half ago or so, talking about the need to use rapid tests in Ontario. We have the Prime Minister of this country extolling the benefits of rapid tests.

We see, in the United Kingdom, that they’re offering twice weekly rapid tests, and that they’ve identified 120,000 COVID-19 cases through the use of these rapid tests. In fact, the U.K. government is framing the rapid tests as an essential element to their response to COVID-19 and the eventual complete reopening of their country and of their economy.

We have 2.7 million rapid tests at our disposal. This government is sitting on them. These tests have been arriving since October, as the minister responded, according to our federal government. Yet only 13 percent of those tests have been distributed, and only 1 percent of those tests have been used.

My question is again to the Minister of Health. What is his plan? How and when will the remaining 2.7 million rapid tests be used as a part of his government’s strategy for asymptomatic infections?

Hon. A. Dix:

There’s a lot to unpack there, but I would say this: that over the past year, our policies with respect to specific issues such as testing has been guided by public health. I appreciate the advice of the Prime Minister, but I appreciate even more the advice of the epidemiologists of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. I would further say that the tests that the member refers to in the United Kingdom and the home-based tests are not licenced in Canada as of yet.

Finally, I’d say this: that rapid testing will and is playing a role. The member wants to know where the policy is. The policy was delivered, provided to him on March 4 of this year. It’s clearly on public view. It’s been guided by public health direction and I think it’s the right approach.

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