CALGARY — Albertans who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 may soon learn the results of testing in minutes, not days, as a result of new pilot program.
Two versions of rapid COVID-19 test kits, the Abbott IDNow and PanBio, have been recently approved by Health Canada and the federal government has provided thousands of the kits.
Now, after a two-month-long testing process by Alberta Health Services and Alberta Precision Laboratories, those kits are being supplied to a number of testing sites throughout the province.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the tests can identify positive cases of COVID-19 in under 20 minutes.
“We are proud to provide Albertans with faster, more convenient testing for the disease,” he said during Thursday’s COVID-19 update.
He said more than 577,000 of the tests have been received from the federal government so far.
The testing will still need to be performed by health-care professionals, Shandro said, and they will only be used on individuals who have exhibited symptoms of the disease over the past seven days.
“These tests are not for close contacts nor are they for those who may have been exposed but are asymptomatic,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first announced his government’s contribution of the kits Tuesday.
“We’ve sent over 300,000 rapid tests to Alberta and 444,000 face masks,” he said during his national address about the pandemic,” he said.
“The federal government has also provided $1.3 billion to the province for everything from PPE to contact tracers through the Safe Restart Agreement, with another $260 million for schools through the Safe Return to Class Fund.
“That’s just some of the support we’ve made available for people and businesses in Alberta, just like for everyone across the country. No matter where you live, we will continue to be there for you through this second wave, and beyond.”
The tests will be available in early December at several sites throughout the province, including at testing sites in Calgary, Edmonton, Slave Lake and St. Paul.
“This will allow us to quickly identify and notify positive cases within hours, reducing the need for patient samples to be transported to centralized public laboratories for processing,” Shandro said.
All negative tests from each version of the rapid testing kit used in Calgary and Edmonton will be verified by existing lab techniques that require more time to complete.
“This is because we’re continuing to evaluate the accuracy of both systems and we don’t want to miss any COVID positive samples,” Shandro said.
There have been more than 2 million COVID-19 tests conducted in Alberta so far in the pandemic.