Interim B.C. Liberal leader Shirley Bond questions the NDP government in the legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)

Interim B.C. Liberal leader Shirley Bond questions the NDP government in the legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)

COVID-19 rapid test pilot program all B.C. can do now, Dix says

B.C. Liberals call for increased senior home testing

B.C.’s rapid test capacity for pre-symptom COVID-19 detection is being tested in health care and for high-risk rural populations, but the tests aren’t licensed for wider-scale use to protect senior homes from infection, Health Minister Adrian Dix says.

With B.C.’s coronavirus infection and death rate climbing, particularly in care facilities, the opposition B.C. Liberals took up the issue of rapid testing of care home staff that was proposed in November by Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie. Questioned about the issue as a brief session of the legislature began this week, Dix said better protection of seniors in care is the highest priority, but the available rapid tests in B.C. won’t do the job.

“The rapid tests that have been sent to us are not successful or effective in dealing with asymptomatic testing and, in any event, haven’t been sent to us in the numbers available to put in place such a system. It would not be effective,” Dix told the legislature Dec. 8. “That said, as with everything else, we are trying absolutely everything, including a pilot project, to see in what ways they could be effective in our province. Rapid testing is also being used and being piloted in other areas where vulnerable people live, from the Downtown Eastside to rural communities.”

Interim B.C. Liberal leader Shirley Bond said the announcement this week of the province’s pilot program in a small number of long-term care homes brings hope to residents and their families in a frightening situation.

RELATED: 4,000 vaccine doses coming for high-risk residents

RELATED: Big holes in NDP’s COVID-19 Christmas bonus plan

Dix replied that the Mackenzie’s position is understood, but she is not qualified to make decisions in technical public health issues such as rapid testing. He said the best strategy to stop the spiral of infection and death in care homes is vaccination, which the province will start to roll out next week, with care home staff and residents at the top of the list.

“We have been using rapid tests in appropriate circumstances, and that action is guided by the leading experts in public health that we have,” Dix said. “With great respect to the seniors advocate, who the leader of the opposition cites as evidence, this is not her area of expertise. The fact is that the rapid tests are not licensed, even, for asymptomatic people and that we have a better overall plan to address symptomatic people in long-term care.”

Dix confirmed for B.C. Liberal health critic Renee Merrifield that B.C. has received 131 rapid test machines and 27,000 test kits from the federal government. Even if they were licensed for use on people not showing symptoms, there are not enough of them to do the type of daily screening proposed, he said. A similar limitation exists for antibody tests, which use a deep swab similar to those used for nucleic acid amplification (NAT) tests for the virus.

“We’ve received approximately a little under 500,000 of the Panbio antigen tests. All of them, of course, require a nasopharyngeal swab,” Dix said. “All of them require a health care worker to do the swab. All of them are not licensed for use except in people who are symptomatic, and even in the case of people who are symptomatic, they are not as able to pick up the virus as the regular NAT tests that we do on an ongoing basis in B.C.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politicsCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Chemainus teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

Pamela Anderson was given a Ladysmith Heritage Award for the restoration work on the Arcady Auto Court property that she purchased from her grandparents. (Pamela Anderson photo)
PHOTOS: Star-studded Ladysmith Heritage Awards honour local commitments to heritage

Barrie McDonald, Pamela Anderson, John & Luke Marston, and the Ladysmith Maritime Society recognized

Kim McGregor died in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run accident in Chemainus. (Photo submitted)
Victim identified in Valentine’s Day Chemainus hit-and-run

Kim McGregor grew up in Chemainus and had recently returned to be close to his parents

Ella Donovan with mom Tina outside Fuller Lake Arena before heading onto the ice for practice. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Young Ladysmith skater watches and waits in battle against cancer

Ella Donovan’s tumour began a tumultuous time, but community support eased the burden

The Ladysmith Museum has two new exhibits open to the public. (Cole Schisler photo)
Ladysmith museum opens up with two new exhibits

The museum is featuring Prime Predators of Vancouver Island and ‘Red Flag, Red Flag’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

RCMP say a woman turned herself in to police after hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene of the accident in downtown Nanaimo on Friday morning. (File photo)
Driver flees, then turns herself in after hitting pedestrian in downtown Nanaimo

RCMP say woman was struck in marked crosswalk after driver ran red light

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Most Read