British Columbia

COVID-19 testing in B.C. will focus on care homes, health workers and active outbreaks

People associated with cluster outbreaks, health care workers, patients already in hospitals or long-term care homes will be the priority, says the province.

People with mild symptoms don't need it, says Dr. Bonnie Henry

Anyone returning to Canada from travelling is being asked to to self-isolate at home for two weeks. They do not need to be tested, even if they have mild symptoms. (John Minchillo/The Associated Press)

The province announced Saturday it would be shifting its COVID-19 testing strategies to focus on vulnerable groups in order to make sure those resources are available to those most in need. 

British Columbia, which currently has a total of 73 cases, has conducted extensive testing in recent weeks. As of March 13, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control had tested 6,326 individuals. 

But with travellers coming to Canada asked to self-isolate for 14-days, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says it is not necessary to test everyone who has been outside the country even if they have a mild illness.

"We are adapting our testing strategy to respond to the situation we have here in B.C. now," Dr. Henry said. 

"For most people, you do not need a test. We want to make sure tests are available for those that do need it."

Dr. Henry says testing will now be focused on people associated with active cluster outbreaks in B.C., including the Lions Gate Hospital and the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver  and Hollyburn House in West Vancouver.

Other focused testing will cover health-care workers, those who are already in hospital and people in long-term care homes.

Everyone else, even those with mild symptoms who have returned from travel, do not need testing, she said, unless they get sick enough to need professional care.

Henry said the change in strategy is not because of a shortage of supplies, but a more measured, targeted use of existing resources.

Testing centres 

B.C.'s Minister of Health Adrian Dix says the province's regional health authorities will set up testing centres within the next few days, but stressed they're not open for everyone.

"It is very important ... that people not present there and that we ensure that the people who need to be tested most, that are [prioritized] for testing, get access to testing," Dix said. 

Dix says the locations of the centres will not be made public in order to prevent mass lineups for unnecessary testing. 

"When new centres are open, they're not for people to descend on," he said. "If you have mild illness at home, the key is to self-isolate at home."

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