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

A mature Garry oak fell onto Richmond Road on Oct. 13 near Camosun College Lansdowne campus. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Garry oak crashes down onto Richmond Road

Saanich responded to 59 tree-related calls

A 23-foot sailboat that broke free from its anchor was smashed against Cattle Point during the early October south-easterly storms. (Ron Geezin Photo)
Storm-smashed boat pulled off rocks of Cattle Point in Oak Bay

Sailboat a casualty of last week’s big storms

The Saanich Teachers’ Association is calling on the local provincial election candidates from all parties to commit to making schools healthier and safer for all. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich teachers call on election candidates for improved health, safety in schools

Increased funding, reduced class sizes among required changes, says association president

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich residents warned to watch livestock after bear kills llama

Officers with Conservation, Saanich police could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

More than 250 riders took part in the fifth annual Tripleshot CrossFondo, which riders across parts of the Saanich Peninsula, including this field near Sluggett Farms. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Tripleshot CrossFondo rides across Saanich Peninsula

More than 250 cyclists took part in mystery-course race

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Steven Michael Bacon pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder of Nanaimo teen Makayla Chang. (Photos submitted)
Accused pleads not guilty in Nanaimo teen’s 2017 murder

Steven Bacon appeared in Nanaimo court Monday via video link from Thunder Bay

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read