As vaccinations drag on, calls for rapid testing rise
CALGARY -- Sandeep Koul is about to fly to India to see his parents.
However, he’s forbidden from getting off the plane there without proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours.
That’s why he’s parked outside the CardiIA laboratory in Northeast Calgary, paying $120 for a rapid test, with results in 24 hours,
“If you book an appointment with AHS, you’re not guaranteed to get it in that time frame,” he says “If I don’t get them, I’d have to reschedule all my travel plans. It makes no sense to me.”
CardiAI is one of 38 facilities approved to conduct COVID-19 testing across Alberta.
“We already are getting interest from various industries - for example the film industry. “ says Dr. Anmool Kapoor, “They need regular COVID testing to allow them to continue shooting their productions, we are also getting requests from the oil and gas sector and construction industry, also some seniors facilities.”
The lab also offers testing kits to companies so they can collect samples from staff and return them to the lab for testing.
Individuals can do that with family members as well.
The federal government has provided millions of rapid testing kits to provinces but how they’re distributed and used is inconsistent.
“If it is good enough from private industry why isn’t it good enough for the public?” asks Dr. Joe Vipond, a Calgary physician, saying mass rapid testing has been effective in smaller nations such as Slovakia.
He suggests trying it in a more isolated community, such as Fort McMurray, where access is limited and it's easy to track who is coming and who is going.
“You could start these bubbles and start to expand them outwards,” he says “Maybe you could get the whole province of Alberta COVID-free, with interprovincial travel restrictions.”
While home COVID testing kits, which do not require lab confirmation of results, are being used in some countries, Canada hasn’t approved any yet.
While some people hope the prevalence of rapid results could lead to fewer health restrictions, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health disagreed.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw says a negative test can soon be followed by the arrival of COVID symptoms and a positive test.
“If people use a single point in time snapshot of a negative test as a free pass to do risky activity over the following week that would actually make the situation worse,” she says.
Still many in the hospitals industry hope rapid testing can become the norm, allowing business to reopen.
“The sooner we get access to rapid testing the better,” says Ernie Tsu with the Alberta Hospitality Association, “Guests coming in (to restaurants) and showing they’re negative? That creates the safest environment for everybody.”