British Columbians will soon be able to pick up free COVID-19 rapid test kits at local pharmacies free of charge.
Health officials announced plans Wednesday to distribute hundreds of thousands of rapid tests to the general public — the first time in the pandemic that people not connected to certain vulnerable communities will have access to the federally purchased tests.
The kits will be available for pickup at select pharmacies starting Friday, February 25. A list of the pharmacies will be available on the BC Pharmacy Association website later this week.
At first, only people age 70 and up will be eligible to pick up a test kit. But eligibility will expand as more kits become available, the government said in its planning document.
The rapid test kits contain five tests each for at-home use. Approximately 865,000 kits are ready for immediate distribution to pharmacies, and an additional 12 million are expected to come from the federal government in the next four weeks.
How to pick up your test kit
British Columbians only need to bring their BC Services Card to a participating pharmacy to obtain their test kit free of charge. There’s a limit of one kit per person every 28 days.
Individuals are allowed to pick up a kit on behalf of a partner or family member. They’ll need to bring the other person’s BC Services Card and confirm their name and date of birth.
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When to use a rapid test
The BC government says rapid tests are best used by symptomatic individuals to see if they have COVID-19.
One line indicates the test is working, and two lines indicate the person is positive for COVID-19.
If someone tests positive, they should report their test result online, self-isolate, and notify close contacts.
First time general public can access free rapid tests
Although the world is approaching the second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, BC hasn’t given the general public access to free rapid tests until this week.
That’s slower than in several other provinces where rapid tests have been distributed since late 2021.
BC has distributed rapid tests in certain settings, such as schools, but people without connections to those communities have been left having to buy their own.
The pressure to buy rapid tests has also been heightened because BC restricted access to PCR testing when government testing sites became overwhelmed during the Omicron wave in December.