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

Alyssa Gerwing, executive director of the Sidney Museum and Archives, gets into the Halloween spirit with a lit-up jack-o-lantern. With Treat Street cancelled, the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society has organized a series of other events and activities under the heading of Halloween Spooktacular. (Wolfgang Depner/News Staff)
Sidney serves up ghoulish spills and thrills during Halloween

A virtual Halloween treasure hunt and scary drive-in movies among tricks and treats

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

The Capital Regional District is considering adding another dollar a year to the parkland acquisition fund fee for homeowners. (Black Press Media file photo)
One dollar or two? Greater Victoria parks acquisition fee hike spurs debate

$2 a year too steep, CRD committee recommends $1 a year increase per household

Samantha Lenz, resort manager for Oceanside RV Resort, says she continues to turn people away, who are looking for a permanent spot to winter on the Saanich Peninsula. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Tourism operators hope Canadian Snowbirds flock to B.C.

Provincial tourism industry hopes to compensate ‘monumental financial losses and hardship’

Patrol officers from VicPD’s Esquimalt division responded to a call about hateful graffiti in Macaulay Park Wednesday evening. (Black Press Media file photo)
Anti-Semitic, hate-based graffiti found in Esquimalt park

Police seek suspects after fresh hate-based graffiti found Wednesday evening

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

MNP senior economist Susan Mowbray presents the State of the Island Economic Report on Thursday night to conclude the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s virtual summit. (VIEA image)
Not-so-rosy State of the Island report caps off virtual summit

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s summit took place online Oct. 27-29

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Allentown, Pa. on Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
POLL: How closely are you following the U.S. presidential election?

It may feel like it’s been going on forever but the U.S.… Continue reading

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

Pilot Kevin Maher participated in a flyover of a ceremony at the Cobble Hill cenotaph on Oct. 22 in a 1940 North American (Noorduyn) Harvard aircraft. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Cobble Hill remembers lost military members with ceremony, flyover

Annual event commemorates those who died in non-combat roles

Most Read