Manitoba to provide take-home, self-administered rapid COVID-19 tests to certain people
Rapid tests to be provided to social service, community living sites, vulnerable CFS clients: health minister
With demand for COVID-19 tests at an all-time high, Manitoba is making take-home, self-administered rapid tests available at provincial testing sites, as well as for vulnerable people.
The type of test will now be based on a person's vaccination status, Health Minister Audrey Gordon said in a news release on Monday.
The rapid testing changes will be introduced incrementally at testing sites throughout Manitoba, with three in Winnipeg — Nairn Avenue, King Edward Street and Research Road — as well as the Easton Drive location in Selkirk, which already offers rapid testing.
"The centralized use of rapid test kits is necessary to manage the supply we have in stock," Gordon said in the release.
"Making take-home, self-administered rapid tests available to symptomatic Manitobans who seek a COVID-19 test will help manage the potential demand of tests when the Omicron variant of concern becomes more prominent."
The type of test will now be based on a person's vaccination status, the province says.
Symptomatic and vaccinated people will receive a take-home, self-administered rapid test, but some will be randomly selected for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test — the kind normally provided at testing sites — as a control measure.
Symptomatic and unvaccinated people will continue to receive a PCR test.
A symptomatic, high-risk and unvaccinated person may receive a PCR test as well as a take-home, self-administered rapid test and may receive further treatment.
An unnamed provincial spokesperson said only people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms will be eligible to take home rapid tests.
The spokesperson said the Research Road site is very busy with hundreds of kits handed out yesterday and more given away today.
Additional staff have been called in to prepare the kits for distribution.
"As demand for testing increases, sites will become busier and there is a limited supply of test kits on hand, therefore sites could run out of kits before more supply arrives," wrote the health department spokesperson.
'A little bit late'
A Winnipeg woman who is still waiting for her PCR test results after five days wonders what took the province so long to roll out rapid tests.
"It's encouraging, it's great that this is finally being done. But I think it's a little bit late," said Deb Walker, 59.
She was symptomatic last week and visited the Nairn site, but was turned away Tuesday because the lineup was so long. She returned and waited six hours on Wednesday before being tested.
She became asymptomatic, but needed to isolate while she waited for her results, missing Christmas with her family.
Walker followed the rules and didn't leave her house while waiting, but expects others would get frustrated and not do the same. She added she can't fathom why the province would delay the rollout of rapid tests until this week, and believes it contributed to more spread of the virus.
"That [rapid tests] would have alleviated the numbers, it would have alleviated them having the backlog in the lab. Probably would have had a shorter lineup for people who needed the PCR test. Especially over the holidays, this was the worst time," Walker said.
The provincial announcement comes in the wake of the backlog to process COVID-19 specimens reaching 10,000 on Christmas Eve.
The expected turnaround time to receive results of a COVID-19 test in Manitoba is estimated to be at least four days.
To help prioritize testing, Manitobans who seek a COVID-19 test for out-of-province travel should seek out a private provider, the province says.
Rapid test kits for social services clients
The province says it will also distribute more than 15,000 test kits to 20 Manitoba Families social services offices across the province starting later this week.
An additional 1,764 kits will be provided directly to Community Living Disability Services clients.
Nearly 400 kits with three tests each will be provided monthly to staff at child and family service agencies for use when visiting vulnerable children and clients.
At this time, more than 500,000 rapid tests are being provided to Manitoba workplaces each month, the province said in the release.