‘We’re at a turning point’: Alberta expands rapid test pilot, uses mobile test units

CALGARY – Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the next phase of rapid testing in the province will begin on Friday.

According to Shandro, the mobile units will be deployed in shelters for the homeless and long-term care facilities. Positive cases are expected to be identified in a matter of hours.

“Alberta’s COVID-19 testing program is critical to managing and preventing the spread of the virus in our communities,” said Shandro in a statement released with the announcement. “Taking rapid point of care testing directly to places where it can help protect the health of Albert’s most vulnerable inhabitants is an important addition to our provincial testing system.”

The pilot will start on Friday in the Edmonton area, before expanding into the Calgary area the week of December 21 and across the province – including remote rural areas – in the days and weeks to come.

Shandro says that more than 2.5 million tests have been administered in Alberta and more than 1.5 million Albertans have been tested.

“We are at an inflection point,” said Shandro, referring to the slight downward trend in COVID-19 cases in Alberta. “Vaccination will turn the tide of the pandemic.”

On November 26, Shandro announced that rapid tests will be available in early December at various test sites across the province including Calgary, Edmonton, Slave Lake and St. Paul. Two versions of the COVID-19 rapid test kits – Abbott IDNow and PanBio – have been approved by Health Canada and the federal government has provided thousands of the kits.

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Alberta Health Services and Alberta Precision Laboratories said these kits are being provided to several test sites across the province.

Last month, Shandro said 577,000 of the tests have been received from the federal government so far, adding that these tests can identify positive cases of COVID-19 in less than 20 minutes.

The test will still need to be performed by healthcare professionals and will only be used on individuals who have had symptoms of the disease in the past seven days.

The rapid test will not be available for Albertans who are close contacts or who may have been exposed, but are asymptomatic.

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