CALGARY – Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the next phase of rapid testing deployment in Alberta will begin on Friday.
According to Shandro, mobile units will be deployed in homeless shelters and long-term care facilities. Positive cases should be identified within hours.
“Alberta’s COVID-19 testing program is critical to managing and preventing the spread of the virus in our communities,” Shandro said in a statement released alongside the announcement. “Bringing rapid point-of-care tests directly to places where they can help protect the health of Albertans most vulnerable is an important addition to our provincial testing system. ”
The pilot will begin in the Edmonton area on Friday, before expanding to the Calgary area the week of Dec. 21 and across the province – including remote rural areas – in the days and weeks to come.
Shandro says more than 2.5 million tests have been administered in Alberta and more than 1.5 million Albertans have been tested.
“We’re at a turning point,” Shandro said, referring to the slight downward trend in COVID-19 cases in Alberta. “Vaccination will reverse the course of the pandemic.”
On November 26, Shandro announced that rapid tests would be available in early December at several test sites across the province, including Calgary, Edmonton, Slave Lake and St. Paul. Two versions of the COVID-19 rapid test kits – Abbott IDNow and PanBio – have been approved by Health Canada and the federal government has provided thousands of kits.
The Alberta Health Services and Alberta Precision Laboratories have said these kits are being supplied to a number of testing sites across the province.
Last month, Shandro said 577,000 of the tests had been received from the federal government so far, adding that these tests could identify positive cases of COVID-19 in less than 20 minutes.
The tests will still need to be done by healthcare professionals, and they will only be used on people who have shown symptoms of the disease in the past seven days.
Rapid testing will not be available to Albertans who are in close contact or who may have been exposed but who are asymptomatic.