Rapid COVID Tests as a Long-Term Screening Method
It has become evident that while molecular testing (which includes PCR) is the gold standard for COVID testing, it is not so efficient. This is because it is cost-intensive and not as widely available. Most of the world has since been turning to rapid antigen tests as a faster and cheaper alternative, despite not being as accurate as PCR.
Regardless, rapid antigen testing is proving to be a suitable supplement to PCR testing, especially among large population groups without symptoms. It also reduces dependence on PCR testing since it is more easily available to people who need it the most.
This article explores the periodic use of rapid COVID tests in Canada as a means of controlling and reducing contagion in environments such as workplaces and elderly care centres.
Rapid COVID Point-of-Care Screening Program
The Rapid COVID Point-of-Care Screening Program is a rapid antigen testing program for organizations seeking to screen their workers. Rapid antigen tests are a simple handheld tool used to screen for COVID in individuals.
The program covers seniors in assisted living facilities and long-term care, as indicated by the Provincial Health Officer order. Facilities owned, operated, or contracted by a health authority can contact their respective regional health authority to get information on how to procure test kits. Regional health authorities can also provide answers to questions they may have.
Privately-run facilities can contact the organizers of the Rapid Point-of-Care Screening Program via email for steps on how to procure the kits and additional information.
Organizations that need rapid COVID tests in Canada for onsite rapid COVID screening can apply to the Safe Screening Program, especially in British Columbia.
The Safe Screening Program provides information, direction, and support on how to run the screening program, at a fee. Organizations will learn about the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) application process, get tools and support to kickstart the screening program, and have access to a platform where they can report their results as public health reporting requires.
Establishments with 10 to 199 employees (small and medium enterprises) can procure rapid antigen tests from pharmacies for their workplace screening programs. They just need to register online through Health Canada’s website, read and sign the agreement letter, and revert with the signed letter. The confirmation email should be presented to the pharmacist for review, alongside a competency assessment. As a reminder, interested organizations should study the rapid test guidelines and requirements.
The completed competency assessment serves as evidence that a participating pharmacy has vetted the company as competent to run the screening program.
The Canadian government provides the test kits free-of-charge. However, the participating pharmacies may charge around $14 as a training and handling fee per kit. A test kit contains 25 tests.
Requirements for the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) Program for Workplaces
Organizations and long-term care facilities looking to kick off their workplace screening programs can go through the PHSA Program by completing the required assessment. PHSA ensures the organization goes through the right training and gets the support materials for management and public health reporting.
Those with work settings that have a relatively higher risk of transmission and infection outbreaks are usually given higher priority. These include food processing companies and workplaces with congregate living (e.g. farming settlements, work camps) where the workers are in close contact.
To be eligible for the PHSA Program for workplaces, the company must:
- Demonstrate good infection prevention and control protocols, and comply with COVID safety guidelines
- Identify the medical health officer or health authority in the locality for public health reporting of positive cases
- Be committed to electronic reporting of positive cases to the appropriate quarters as the timeline stipulates
- Show an established algorithm for referral of positive cases
- Possess well-trained and proficient staff, and
- Observe regional and provisional standards of documentation of activities and utilization of testing kits, as well as reporting.
Rapid COVID tests are becoming a major tool in the fight against COVID-19. Various health authorities are now using it as a long-term screening method for mass testing in workplaces and assisted care facilities.
Increasing rapid COVID tests in Canada will lead to early detection of cases, reduce further spreading, and slow down the rate of spread. However, this can only happen when the test kits are reliable and accessible. MyZone rapid antigen tests use powerful Boson technology for its lateral flow test, which has proven to be one of the most reliable tests for rapid testing.
Order MyZone rapid antigen tests for COVID to join in the fight against this infection.
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