New COVID-19 testing sites to open in Winnipeg, across Manitoba in coming days, premier says

Manitoba will soon open six new COVID-19 testing sites — including two in Winnipeg, where hours-long waits have been reported at some sites — Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday.

New Winnipeg locations announced as some report waiting for hours at existing testing sites

A new drive-thru COVID-19 testing site will open in Winnipeg at 1066 Nairn Ave. next week, Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday. Another site will open in Winnipeg, as well as sites in Brandon, Dauphin, Winkler and Portage la Prairie, in the coming days, he said. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Manitoba will soon open six new COVID-19 testing sites — including two in Winnipeg, where hours-long waits have been reported at some sites — Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday.

"I'm not satisfied," Pallister said of testing capacity in Manitoba, at a news conference Thursday. "I think we can do better, and when you can do better, you should do it.

Two large drive-thru testing sites will open in Winnipeg shortly, he said. One site, at 1066 Nairn Ave., will open next week, and another at 125 King Edward St. E. will open the week after next.

Another Brandon site will open at the Keystone Centre the week after next, and additional sites are also slated for Dauphin, Portage la Prairie and Winkler, he said.

The announcement comes as Winnipeggers report long lineups and hours-long waits at testing sites, including the city's only drive-thru location on Main Street.

"More needs to be done," Pallister said Thursday.

Public health officials have previously vowed to tackle the lengthy waits for a swab. On Thursday, the premier floated a handful of measures being planned or considered by public health officials, from online booking to plans to expand hours at testing sites, which will be elaborated on next week, he said.

"This is a question I think many Manitobans have been asking from the start of this thing, frankly, that remains unaddressed to my satisfaction," he said. "I have many friends who are nurses, they work 12-hour shifts. How come we can't have testing over a 12-hour period?"

Another Winnipeg drive-thru site will open at 1025 King Edward St. E the week after next, Pallister said Thursday. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

The province is looking at additional rooms in testing sites, and is working with doctors, he said, including on the possibility of using doctors' offices for testing after-hours.

A new training course on swabbing, and possibly contact tracing, will launch on Oct. 19 at Red River College, Pallister said, in an effort to bolster a workforce that is experiencing burnout.

"We need to learn to adjust our systems now to work at the speed, not of government, but of the private sector," he said. "We need to be able to alleviate waits, and we need to address them. We can't just manage wait times."

'Testing, tracing, turnaround time'

Demand for testing has increased alongside a recent rise in cases, especially in Winnipeg, Pallister said.

Thursday marked Manitoba's second-highest daily tally of new COVID-19 cases, with 67 reported in the province, including 57 in the capital city.

Pallister promised an announcement next week on contact tracing in the province, which he said is uneven and, in some cases, takes too long.

He said the province is working to speed up the process of notifying Manitobans who test negative for COVID-19.

"We hear repeatedly the tests are being done within a 48-hour period, to a 90th percentile. But are people being notified?" he said.

He said the government has to prepare for the long haul, including the potential of another wave of COVID-19 down the line.

"That means better and faster testing, tracing, turnaround time," he said. "All three categories, and more."


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