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

Police continue to investigate a break-and-enter in this Sidney jewelry store in the 2500-block of Beacon Avenue. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Thieves hit Sidney jewelry store

Sidney/North Saanich RCMP says incident is not part of a larger trend

A rare Short-eared owl was found dead in a Saanich backyard on Oct. 26 and will be sent for a necropsy to find out if it had ingested rat poison. (Photo courtesy Kimberly Adamec)
Rare owl found dead in Saanich yard to be sent for necropsy

Short-eared owl ‘vulnerable’ in B.C., owl advocate says

This house in the 600-block of Linden Avenue in Fairfield has a Día de Muertos theme for 2020. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Haunted Oak Bay

Residents spookify houses

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch #91, said plans for a new building will ensure long-term sustainability. (Black Press Media file photo)
Plans for new Legion in Langford include low-cost housing for seniors

Project could be before council in early 2021

Shawn Magnus of Sidney Courier has partnered with Sidney Business Improvement Area Society for free commercial delivery for society members. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney business association partners with courier for free commercial delivery

Service started Oct. 26 and extends to a radius of 35 kilometres

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson leaves the stage after announcing he is stepping down as party leader, during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Too rural, not enough diversity, soul searching needed, say BC Liberals

Elections BC says there are about 600,000 mail-in and absentee ballots across the province still to count

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to provide an update on the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Canada has reached a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, surpassing 10,000 novel coronavirus deaths. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta COVID deaths pushes Canada past milestone of 10,000 deaths

Canada crossed the threshold of 5,000 deaths on May 12, a little over two months after the first was reported

An elderly woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past an advertisement for a television series in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than half the year

Province has been under a state of emergency for 32 weeks – and counting

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

A picture of John taken at Children’s Hospital Vancouver last week. Photo courtesy, Alicia Sewid.
RCMP investigating after young boy run over by SUV in Campbell River parking lot

The seven-year-old has multiple injuries including a broken pelvis and was admitted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Most Read