Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. to start testing fewer people for COVID-19

PCR tests will now be given only to the most vulnerable.

PCR tests will now be given only to the most vulnerable

A nurse wearing blue gloves handles a COVID-19 test swab.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government is limiting who it will test for COVID-19. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Three days after lifting all COVID-19 public health restrictions in Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial government says it's further restricting eligibility for testing.

In a media release sent late Thursday, the Health Department said it's changed who's eligible for PCR testing, limiting it to the most vulnerable — people with symptoms who are at increased risk, or are essential to keeping the health-care system working.

The list of who's eligible now includes the immunocompromised, people age 60 or older, children under two, First Nations, Inuit or Métis people over 18, front-line health-care workers, pregnant women, anyone working in a long-term or personal-care home or correctional centre, and anyone living in or working in a shelter, transition house or temporary foreign worker setting.

Before now, anyone who had COVID-19 symptoms but didn't have known contact with a case was eligible for a test. 

The Health Department's media release didn't explain the decision, and CBC has requested more information. 

As of Thursday, the government's COVID-19 website showed 27 people in hospital with the virus, and 82 people have died.

The last time Newfoundland and Labrador changed testing criteria was in January, after a surge in demand overwhelmed the system and forced Public Health to send thousands of tests out of province for processing.

At the time, Public Health said it was only testing people in high-risk groups, and anyone who developed symptoms and was a close contact of a previous case should assume they had the virus and not seek testing.

In Thursday's release, Public Health said anyone not eligible for a test now who does develop symptoms should use a rapid test — reminding them they need two negative tests 72 hours apart before leaving isolation. 

"If you do not have rapid tests and you are not eligible for PCR testing, you will need to stay at home until your symptoms have improved for at least 24 hours and you have no fever," reads the release.

There have been no changes to testing for close contacts. 

The Health Department has also changed the rules for fully vaccinated people who get COVID-19. 

Instead of having to limit their activities to essential tasks only for three days once they're released from isolation, Public Health is now asking them to avoid high-risk areas for three days.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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