Some provinces are scrambling to increase testing capacity as coronavirus infections spike across Canada and lineups at COVID-19 testing sites see a significant influx of people.
In London, Ont., a long line of cars was seen waiting outside the city’s only open assessment centre on Sunday. Some were families getting checked because they wanted to ensure they were beginning the school year free of COVID-19, especially as their social bubbles were about to expand with the addition of their kids’ classmates. Others said they were getting tested as a precaution as the university school year gets underway.
Testing issues have also been reported in St. John’s, with local mother Flora Salvo saying she spent four days on the phone trying to book a COVID-19 test and that the reservation system needs to be revamped. She said the painfully slow process of getting tested — from her first call to when she received a negative result last Saturday — stretched over a full week.
In Ottawa, health authorities are hiring more staff and training them so that an assessment centre can accept patients over 12 hours per day, seven days a week — four more hours per day than it is normally open. And in B.C., the province was already expanding its COVID-19 testing capacity from 8,000 to 20,000 people a day. Adrian Dix said in August that the increase should help B.C. meet greater demand for testing as the province heads into the cold and flu season.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said Tuesday that the government is currently working closely with provincial microbiology labs to enhance test processing capacity. Tam told reporters that the current national capacity is “beyond 60,000 [tests per day]” at the national level. She said Canada needs to “augment the portfolio of testing capabilities in Canada” to include new technology like rapid saliva tests.