Sask. Premier says rapid COVID-19 testing 'should have been dispersed sooner'

The Saskatchewan NDP is criticizing the provincial government for not making better use of its rapid COVID-19 testing devices but Premier Scott Moe said the rapid tests are now being used.

NDP criticizing provincial government for not making better use of rapid testing devices

The Saskatchewan premier says rapid testing devices are now being dispersed to correctional facilities and schools in the province. (Robert Short/CBC)

The Saskatchewan NDP is criticizing the provincial government for not making better use of its rapid COVID-19 testing devices, but Premier Scott Moe said the rapid tests are now being used.

"It should have been dispersed sooner and we do need to do better here in Saskatchewan," Moe said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Moe said the tests have been used in long term care facilities "for some period of time now," and are being dispersed to correctional facilities and schools. 

Moe said the government has also been in touch with some Indigenous communities that may want access to the tests and that conversations are ongoing with the Saskatchewan Health Authority about other ways the rapid tests could be used.

CBC News Network's Power & Politics reached out to every province asking for the number of rapid tests it has received from the federal government and how many of those tests have been used to date. Saskatchewan was unable to provide detailed numbers by the time of publication.

Millions of the tests delivered to provincial governments were never used.

NDP Leader Ryan Meili said Saskatchewan has received more than 400,000 rapid tests and only about 10,000 have been used, which is about 2.5 per cent.

Meili said it "doesn't make any sense" that governments would demand these rapid tests and then not use them.

"That's really, really irresponsible," he said.

The number of rapid tests the provinces have used as a percentage of their stockpiles. (Power & Politics/Darren Major, Emily Haws, Earvin Solitario)

Meili said the best way to use rapid tests is to identify who's most likely to be infectious.

"They're really helpful in schools, in long term care, in other places where you really want to stop that transmission," he said. "It doesn't replace people getting tested when they have symptoms. It's to catch those people who don't even know they're sick but are at a really high rate of contagiousness."

Meili said the rapid tests don't replace the standard PCR tests, instead they identify if someone is likely to have the virus, then that person goes on to have a confirmatory test.

He said the model for rapid testing is generally on a cycle, so ideally it would be done once or twice a week, depending on the availability of resources. He said the exact logistics should be up to the health authority and the school boards.

Meili said it shouldn't be a concern that there is a limited amount, because more could be ordered.

"You've got to start somewhere and you've got to get to work on it and just leaving them sit in the warehouse isn't achieving what needs to be done."

(CBC News Graphics)

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Ashleigh Mattern is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon and CBC Saskatchewan.


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