As the third wave of COVID-19 wreaks havoc in British Columbia, Adam Olsen, Green MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, is calling out the provincial government for its inaction on rapid antigen testing.
Olsen indicates that BC Public Health has used less than one per cent of the rapid tests available to the province, specifically about 24 000 out of a total of 2.7 million tests. For the BC Greens, rapid testing is part of the answer to reducing the risk of the virus spreading through the population, as it allows asymptomatic people to take the necessary precautionary measures. Indeed, a large proportion of the testing centres in the province are reserved for people who show symptoms of Covid-19. According to the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), it is not recommended for asymptomatic people to be tested, even if they had contact with someone who has tested positive.
BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau believes that allowing asymptomatic people to be tested is key to stopping the spread of the virus (1). Sonia Furstenau is also urging the distribution of rapid tests in workplaces, schools, businesses and neighbourhoods with high rates of infection.
In a video posted on Twitter, Adam Olsen talks about the importance of distributing rapid tests to the population:
YVR COVID-19 Testing Study
In addition, rapid tests have the advantage of showing results within 30 minutes, allowing an individual to avoid mandatory isolation while waiting for the results. A study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC), in collaboration with Providence Health Care, offered individuals taking flights departing from the Vancouver airport to use the rapid testing method during a 4-month period between November 2020 and February 2021. Of the 600 British-Columbian passengers who participated in the study, 100% tested negative.
The initiative, funded by WestJet and Air Canada, concluded that the risk of spreading the virus from the Vancouver airport is extremely low, at less than 1%, making it “an effective, acceptable and cost-effective method of screening travellers and contributing to safer and healthier air travel.” (2) In addition, the results of the study show a sense of relief among travellers, who said they felt much more confident about traveling once they were tested before departure.
By the end of April 2021, British Columbia had 29.98% of its population vaccinated with the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, the second most advanced province in this process, after Quebec (3).