$150 COVID-19 test kits for asymptomatic people coming to Sask. in December

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The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) announced Tuesday that the province is collaborating with a private technology company to provide user-pay COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic people beginning in December.

Quantum Genetix, a laboratory licensed to perform COVID-19 testing in Saskatchewan, will be selling kits for $150.

The partnership was prompted by an increase in case numbers and testing, Quantum Genetix general manager Heather Deobald said.

"We originally reached out to SHA shortly after the pandemic started in probably March or April," Deobald said.

"At that time, they were able to handle the volume that was coming in to the SHA laboratories, but obviously with the increase in case numbers … they now were looking for someone that was able to alleviate a little bit of that pressure."

Self-administered tests

Individuals and businesses can order testing kits by mail from Quantum Genetix. Kits contain self-administered nasal and oral swabs, and detailed instructions on how to use them, Deobald said.

On the topic of ensuring people are collecting samples properly, Deobald said that the kit test procedures have been passed to the company by the SHA.

"It's been shown that the self-collection is a verified methodology of collecting specimens," Deobald said.

She said the process is different than how medical professionals take samples.

"It's easier to do," she said.

Kits are then returned back to Quantum Genetix. The company hopes to be able to provide results via email in 24 to 48 hours.

It hopes to process roughly 300 samples a day, with the ability to ramp up testing volumes if needed, Deobald said.

Alleviate the stress

The SHA said it is hopeful the kits will provide some relief for people who are in need of an asymptomatic test.

Lenore Howey, the executive director of laboratory medicine with the SHA, was quoted in a Tuesday news release saying high volumes of symptomatic testing have circumvented asymptomatic testing.

The hope is that the kits will change that.

"It's been challenging to provide timely results for asymptomatic travelers, especially within the tight timelines required by airlines and international destinations," Howey said in part.

"[Quantum Genetix] have the technology to provide PCR COVID-19 testing for anyone requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test before travelling."

The asymptomatic test kits will also be designed for businesses that want to keep their work environment safe, Deobald said.

"I hope that it helps alleviate the stress on the provincial laboratories, so they can target their testing to the symptomatic and … nurses and frontline staff — people that need the results as quickly as they can," Deobald said.