Free rapid tests coming for British Columbians in January

Dec 15 2021, 1:05 am

BC officials say free rapid tests will be available to residents in the new year. This news comes as demand soars for the antigen kits, with Christmas gatherings happening alongside growing Omicron case counts.

Rapid tests are less reliable than PCR tests, and a positive result must be confirmed with a second test from a health authority. But at-home testing kits are convenient, and they may provide some people with peace of mind ahead of planned social gatherings.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said BC will receive a shipment in January from the federal government with kits that can be performed at home, and officials will announce more details about their distribution plan then.

Until now, BC has not widely distributed take-home rapid testing kits like other provinces have. Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick all offer free tests to residents — but British Columbians must purchase them.

When faced with questions about why BC hasn’t distributed its supply of rapid tests more widely, Henry said the province hasn’t had access to easy-to-use take-home tests yet. She also said the provinces currently offering take-home tests have smaller populations than BC.

The province is using rapid tests in certain scenarios, including using them to help monitor a cluster of COVID-19 cases at the University of Victoria following a rugby tournament.

But January seems too far away for some British Columbians. There’s a petition with more than 13,000 signatures asking the BC government to immediately distribute its stockpile of rapid tests to residents who want them now that Omicron is in the province.

Omicron and holiday travel fuel demand for rapid tests

The BC government is not yet widely distributing rapid tests, but residents are still keen to get their hands on them.

With holiday gatherings approaching and world health officials urging caution about Omicron, British Columbians are scooping up rapid tests like never before — and some say they should be provided for free by the province.

Rapid test manufacturer Canadian Shield told Daily Hive that it saw orders skyrocket in late November from a steady pace they’d been keeping since October.

“We have seen an astronomical increase in the demand for rapid tests. We are processing tens of thousands of orders every week, which is quite the volume,” marketing manager Jessica Braun told Daily Hive.

The majority of Canadian Shield’s orders come from Ontario, Canada’s largest province, but BC is second in terms of order volume.

“Omicron is very, very scary, and now that people actually have access to rapid testing, they want to be prepared,” Braun said. “And people are out for the holidays… They’re seeing friends, seeing family, and want to feel safe and be able to test themselves before going to visit grandparents or have people over.”

Their five-pack of kits retails for $49.96, which works out to about $10 per test.


Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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