Ottawa is ramping up efforts to deliver COVID-19 rapid tests to provinces amid a surge in the highly transmissible Omicron variant that has pushed B.C. past its testing capacity.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said during a Wednesday news conference 140 million more tests would be delivered to the provinces and territories by the end of the month. They will be divvied up on a per capita basis.
B.C. accounts for about 13% of Canada’s population of 38 million people, meaning about 18.2 million tests should be destined for the West Coast by month’s end.
This comes after the federal government delivered 35 million tests to provinces and territories last month. Prior to December, 85 million tests had been delivered altogether.
“140 [million] is also, on average, one rapid test per week per person in Canada for January,” Duclos said.
This comes as British Columbians face hours-long lineups to get tested for COVID-19, with some being given tests to take home with them.
B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday it was an “urban myth” the province was hoarding rapid tests in a warehouse somewhere in the province.
"We've made rapid tests in their various forms available to long-term care for many months," she said, referring to when B.C. mandated all long-term care staff to get vaccinated and rapid tests were used in the period before employees received their second dose.
"So they have been available.”
Additionally, B.C. has also designated lateral flow rapid tests specifically for visitors to long-term care facilities.
"There's over 100,000 [that have been] distributed to long-term care homes across the province,” Henry said.
Health officials announced last week the province was again restricting visitors to long-term care homes, allowing only essential visitors.
When asked if the test would be allowed to be sold in pharmacies, Duclos said he has full confidence the provinces and territories will distribute them in the most effective and equitable way.
“We have to recognize the different regions in this country are facing very different situations,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
“They will make determinations around how to best serve their citizens in the right way.”
With files from Elana Shepert, Vancouver Is Awesome