A new online booking system for COVID-19 testing by Island Health is causing confusion for Island residents hoping to find rapid antigen tests, and an expert says the lack of communication from public health could escalate existing issues.
New testing process proves puzzling
Within the last few days, the health authority launched the Island Health Test Kit Reservation Site, where individuals could select one of 11 sites from Campbell River to Victoria to reserve a five-minute appointment to pick up a rapid test.
When the site first launched, a reservation code was not needed to book a time slot, but by noon Monday, the site required a verification code. Numerous people on social media reported booking a slot and receiving a test kit without the code.
A code can only be obtained by calling the Island Health COVID call centre following the completion of an online self-assessment.
As of this weekend, Vancouver Island residents are being asked to use rapid tests (still not widely available in the region) instead of getting PCR tested for COVID symptoms. Called this morning and was given similar directives in #yyj. Am investigating.
— Tegwyn Hughes (@tegwynhughes) January 3, 2022
While the rapid tests are not widely available in the region, Island residents with mild COVID symptoms and no risk factors for severe illness are not required to get a test, according to Island Health.
Residents seeking a test must call Service BC following an online COVID-19 self-assessment. Some residents report having an option to receive either a rapid test or a PCR, while others did not receive the option for a PCR test.
A confirmation of booking is required at the test site in order to receive the rapid test, and following a positive result, individuals are asked to self-report the results through an online form.
Expert says more clarity needed from Island Health
Dr. Lyne Filiatrault, a retired emergency physician, says more information needs to be shared with residents about how rapid antigen tests work if they are to replace PCR tests for low-risk residents.
“One rapid antigen test means nothing if you have symptoms,” she told Black Press Media, adding it’s the government’s responsibility to “tell people how to use (a test) and when to use it.”
Filiatrault is a member of Protect Our Province BC, a group of health-care professionals advocating for evidence-based policies surrounding COVID. The group has been advocating for rapid testing to become more widely available throughout the province, but Filiatrualt worries the option will do more harm than good if used incorrectly.
Because rapid antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests, the retired ER doctor says they cannot be used as the only confirmation that a person doesn’t have the virus.
“If you get one negative rapid test but you have symptoms, it doesn’t matter,” she explains. “You should isolate and assume you have it.”
For Vancouver Island residents with COVID symptoms and only one rapid test, Filiatrault recommends isolating immediately and using a rapid test after the five-day isolation period to verify whether the virus is still transmissible.
Black Press has reached out to Island Health for more information and clarity on the testing system.