BC will begin handing out rapid tests at pharmacies for those over the age of 70 as early as Friday. Shutterstock

BC to start distributing free rapid tests at pharmacies for those 70+

Kits will contain five tests each and be given out free of charge, as early as Friday in some locations.

By Srushti Gangdev | February 24, 2022 |5:00 am

BC will soon begin to distribute kits of rapid tests at BC pharmacies, beginning with those 70 years and older and expanding to other age groups as supply increases.

Kits will contain five tests each and be given out free of charge, as early as Friday in some locations. There will be a limit of one test kit per person within a 28-day period.

It comes as the province prepares to receive another 12 million tests over the next four weeks. The testing supply in BC has rapidly increased over the past few weeks already; there were nearly 15 million tests deployed in BC between Dec 13 and Feb 22.

Tests have begun to be distributed to high risk populations, such as those living in long-term care homes, already. Distribution has also begun at K-12 and postsecondary institutions.

Now, the province has “pre-positioned” about 865,000 kits to pharmacy distributors from which pharmacies can order. A list of pharmacies with rapid tests available will be posted on the BC Pharmacy website.

Eligible individuals need to present their BC Services Card at the pharmacy to be given their kit; you can also pick up kits for others as long as you have their name, date of birth, and BC Services Card.

The government is still recommending that only people experiencing symptoms use a test.

The province says increased availability “means that more members of the general population will be able to access tests to use to understand their own symptoms and illness and to take action to limit transmission to their friends, family, and work, including those at higher risk.”

However, the announcements this week mirrored those made by other provinces months ago. Rapid test kits have been available in places like Ontario, Alberta, Quebec, and Saskatchewan for free at public locations since late last year. In some areas, like Saskatchewan, there is also no limit on the number available for any person.

Provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry has been reluctant to expand access to rapid tests in BC—and, while she has alluded to a supply shortage from the federal government in the past, the Beacon confirmed in late December that provinces are responsible for telling Ottawa how many tests they need.

BC’s PCR testing capacity (which public health has previously said was 20,000 tests a day) was maxed out at the beginning of the Omicron wave, leading the province to reserve tests only for those for whom a negative or positive result would inform decisions about treatment and care.

The province has exceeded that capacity of 20,000 only twice in the entire pandemic: on December 22, when it performed 20,184 tests, and on December 23, when it performed 21,164 tests.

Srushti Gangdev

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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