PEI

P.E.I. truckers seek more COVID-19 testing hours, faster testing

Some Island truckers are calling for more access to COVID-19 testing, including extended hours at the Borden-Carleton clinic just off the Confederation Bridge.

'I would love to see it open 24 hours,' says one long-haul trucker

Alexander Lifman is a long-haul trucker who lives on P.E.I. and would like to see COVID-19 testing more readily available in Borden-Carleton, where trucks come off the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick. (Submitted by Alexander Lifman)

Some Island truckers are calling for more access to COVID-19 testing.

Many say they would like to see the Borden-Carleton testing clinic, at the base of the Confederation Bridge connecting Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, open all the time, seven days a week.

"I would love to see it open 24 hours," said Alexander Lifman, who drives long haul for Seafood Express.

He acknowledges 24 hours may be impossible because of logistics, but says it "would be nice" to have it open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at any rate.

"Cutting it off at four o'clock in the afternoon, especially with our hours, it's almost impossible."

Hours extended to 6 p.m.

There was some movement on the hours Friday, after CBC News first featured Lifman's arguments. A provincial health official said the Borden-Carleton testing centre would be open longer with measures to speed results. 

"Effective today, hours have been extended to 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, seven days a week. Swabs will be delivered to the lab every hour, allowing faster turnaround times for test results (a few hours to a day)," the official said in an email.

The email added that there "are ongoing discussions" between the Chief Public Health Office and Health PEI regarding rapid testing at the site.

Lifman called that "a step in the right direction" but he still wants to see 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the very least.

Lifman talked to CBC P.E.I. from the cab of his big rig. (CBC)

Truckers entering P.E.I. are required to self-isolate until they receive a negative test. They can go home, but must stay in a separate room from other family members until they get a negative test.

Lifman believes P.E.I.'s rules for truckers are more stringent than those in any other province. 

"Putting [this kind of] pressure on us, people are going to quit," he said. "Every time that something happens, the cases are rising or anything like this, the truckers are getting the heat for this." 

Rapid tests possible

In a public briefing Thursday, P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said she had been working with Health PEI over the last several days to increase hours at the testing clinic in Borden-Carleton.

Dr. Heather Morrison says officials have turned their attention to seeing how tests for truckers and other rotational workers can be done faster and more conveniently. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

"We recognize that when we have put in place that truckers and other rotational workers need to self-isolate until they have a negative test back ... they do want the results back really quickly and we totally understand that." 

Lifman said rapid COVID-19 testing, like some airports are using for travellers, would be perfect for truckers.

Morrison said they are considering using some of the province's ID NOW rapid tests, which can provide results in just 15 minutes. She said that discussion is ongoing with Health PEI, and they need to make sure they have the right resources in place to do them.  

She said however test turnaround times for regular tests are very fast and "would be the envy of every other province."

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Tony Davis

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