Provinces desperate for rapid tests, but the feds are slow to provide them

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says Canada is in crisis when it comes to COVID-19 PCR testing capacity as Ottawa struggles to deliver on its promise to deliver 140 million rapid tests to provinces for the end of the month.

Access to PCR molecular testing, which is considered the gold standard when it comes to confirming a diagnosis of COVID-19, is in crisis across the country, Duclos said Wednesday.

Many provinces have decided to restrict molecular PCR testing to people who are at higher risk of being hospitalized for COVID-19 or who are in settings where the virus could spread more quickly.

Duclos said that’s why rapid home antigen tests have become a crucial tool in this fifth wave of the pandemic, which has been fueled by the more transmissible Omicron variant.

It has caused provincial case counts to skyrocket, overwhelmed testing sites and prompted doctors to warn that hospitals are teetering on the brink.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that the Liberal government would send 140 million rapid tests to the provinces. That would be four times the number of rapid tests the federal government provided in December, enough for every Canadian to have one a week, and they will be distributed on a per capita basis.

But while residents wait for tests, some provinces have noted that shipments have been slow in coming.

In Ontario, 4.6 million of the 54 million tests destined for the province by Ottawa have arrived, with another 7.8 million ready to be delivered. There is no such schedule for the remaining 42 million tests promised.

Manitoba Health says it has been told by Ottawa that the province is allocated five million tests a month. A recent shipping notice confirmed that it would receive a total of 700,000 devices for January. He has already received 132,000.

“The Prime Minister and Prime Minister also had discussions in December and again this week, in which the Prime Minister emphasized the need for additional rapid testing for Manitoba,” a statement from the department said.

Provinces clamor for #RapidTests as the feds scramble to deliver promised millions. #CDNPoli #Covid19 #VarianteOmicron

The BC Ministry of Health says the province has requested more than 19 million tests from Ottawa and “there is no confirmation from the federal government on when they will arrive.”

Federal Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi says demand for tests in the provinces has increased dramatically since last year, while the market has become highly competitive.

“There are issues regarding the supply chain. And those have to do with labor issues, issues with accessing raw materials and also getting cargo planes and getting transportation,” he said during Wednesday’s federal COVID-19 briefing in Ottawa.

She says the government is working with 14 providers to secure promised tests by the end of the month.

“We’re going to continue to work with vendors to ensure that if there are things, logistics, that we can help with as a federal government, we’re there to help those vendors every step of the way.”

The United States promised on Wednesday to increase the availability of rapid tests for schools by providing five million each month. For University of Windsor professor Anne Snowdon, who studies health systems and supply chains, rapid test kits are the latest product to have rocketed to the top of global demand in the pandemic.

Underlying the problem is the underdevelopment of the health care supply chain and lack of domestic manufacturing, he said, adding that Canada is at a competitive disadvantage compared to larger markets like the US as countries compete to find providers.

“Now we’re in this chaotic transition of finding and trying to find whatever supplier we can in the world that might have what you need.”

Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping tweeted Wednesday that his province has yet to receive a firm delivery schedule for the around 16 million rapid tests promised by Ottawa for January and, like others, is dealing with delays. .

So far, he said, only 500,000 have arrived.

Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported Wednesday that 525,499 of the 4.3 million allocated for the month had arrived, with another 2.3 million scheduled for delivery.

In Nova Scotia, a government spokeswoman says it has received 700,000 of the 3.6 million rapid tests Ottawa has promised to provide this month, with the rest due to arrive in the next two weeks “if shipping and logistics timelines continue to be good.” road”.

The Prince Edward Island Health Department says it requested its full share of 560,000 tests this month and was sent 80,000. Another 290,500 are scheduled for delivery.

Federal Liberals have repeatedly said that only vaccines, rather than rapid tests, will get Canada through the pandemic. Trudeau reiterated that point Wednesday when he criticized Conservative leader Erin O’Toole for saying that those who remain unvaccinated should be able to take rapid tests, rather than lose their jobs or be furloughed, under mandatory vaccination policies.

For their part, the Conservatives say Trudeau has failed to provide enough rapid tests and personal protective equipment to provinces, forcing many of them to bring back restrictive public health measures. Better access to these tools would have helped control the spread, they argue.

“They have failed. Again,” tweeted conservative health critic Luc Berthold on Wednesday.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 12, 2022.

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