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Alberta launches rapid testing for COVID-19

Rapid COVID-19 testing now available at specific sites in Alberta. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

Alberta will soon begin piloting point-of-care rapid testing for COVID-19, providing faster, more convenient testing for the disease.

Over the last two months, Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Alberta Precision Laboratories (APL) have been working to evaluate the effectiveness of the Abbott IDNow and PanBio COVID-19 testing kits, which have been approved by Health Canada and provided to provinces and territories by the federal government.

More than 100,000 tests are available for distribution to targeted sites to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect Albertans.

“Fast-tracking the testing process will free up capacity and further reduce turnaround times for the lab-based COVID-19 testing that our provincial labs will continue to provide as part of the provincial testing program," said Mauro Chies of Alberta Health Services.

In coming weeks, these two point-of-care rapid testing systems will be rolled out in clinical pilots at several sites throughout the province. The PanBio rapid antigen tests will be used at one assessment centre in Calgary and one assessment centre in Edmonton. The IDNow tests will begin to be used at the COVID-19 assessment centres in Slave Lake and St. Paul and at the hospital lab in Bonnyville.

The tests will be used on patients who are within the first seven days of expressing symptoms, allowing health officials to quickly identify positive cases at testing sites, reducing the need for patient samples to be transported to centralized public laboratories for processing.

Alberta’s health officials will use these pilots to determine how to streamline processes related to patient management, results notifications and digital record keeping before the tests are deployed widely across the province.