The Saskatchewan Health Authority no longer tests for COVID-19 in asymptomatic people.
Anyone who does not experience symptoms of the disease can still get tested, but will have to pay for it themselves.
SHA will continue to evaluate anyone who has been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, recently caught in an outbreak, had a recent positive antigen test, or requires a transfer or admission to a care home. long-term, primary care, social services or ICU.
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The provincial government released the new rules Tuesday morning in a statement, ahead of the new guidelines that will take effect on October 1. Starting Friday, most businesses in the province will require proof of vaccination or a recent negative test result to enter.
The statement provided some clarity on the measures, which Prime Minister Scott Moe first announced on September 16, but did not respond to other questions.
Tuesday’s statement stated that potential unvaccinated clients must show a test result from the last 72 hours. And self-administered take-home tests will not be accepted.
The statement directs individuals to privately owned test providers.
There are only three companies of this type in the province, and two of them are partners, offering services in 23 locations.
One is Nobel HSSE Ltd, which has locations in Saskatoon, Regina, Oxbow, and a mobile clinic.
Owner Shirley Galloway said she has received “an astonishing number of calls” since Moe first mentioned the changes.
“We are almost completely reserved everywhere for PCR and antigen (testing),” he told Global News.
He said he had no warning about the announcement and now anticipates even more demand.
Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, called the move a “last-ditch effort” to preserve SHA’s testing capacity, given the high rates of COVID in the province.
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He said it is important to preserve that ability, but said it is also important to continue testing asymptomatic people.
“There are many asymptomatic people who carry the infectious virus and do not know it without a test,” he said, adding that the province is effectively not paying attention to asymptomatic transmission chains.
And given the high rates of COVID-19, he said the SHA should probably run random tests.
“(Asymptomatic people) do not know that they are contagious and could be vectors, carriers of this virus and be in the community.”
He said that ultimately the provincial government could have prevented this situation, telling Global News that the province should have done everything possible to limit the spread and keep it small.
Muharajine said he believes the measure will likely encourage more people to get vaccinated, because it will cost them money.
Galloway said Nobel charges $ 90 for a rapid antigen test, $ 250 for the much more sensitive PCR test, and $ 350 for same-day PCR tests.
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Other official providers have similar prices.
Galloway recommended that people book their tests as far in advance as possible.
He also recommended that people get vaccinated to avoid costly tests and to help others.
“It will protect the public, it will protect our communities, it will protect the vulnerable, children who cannot get vaccinated,” he said.
Global News reached out to the Ministry of Health and asked if SHA staff would speak to everyone in line at the testing sites to see if they were asymptomatic. Global News also asked if those customers would be asked to leave the line if they were.
Additionally, Global asked if the government would help private test providers adapt to what will likely be a large increase in demand for tests, if the government is still trying to secure rapid tests to distribute for home use, as Moe previously announced. .
A statement said that SHA is working to collect the information and that the government will announce more information in the coming days.
He said employees in places with public access should be vaccinated.
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