With COVID-19 cases on the rise, the Alberta government is lifting the requirement that rapid testing be overseen by a health-care provider.
The province provides the tests for free to organizations that abide by a set of protocols which include administering the tests, using personal protective equipment, processing results and managing individuals who screen positive.
The change, announced in a Monday news release, will take financial pressure off organizations that would have needed to hire a health-care professional to administer the tests, according to Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
Individuals conducting the tests still need appropriate training, the news release states. Health Canada supports the move, which has already been implemented in Ontario.
"We know that many organizations can benefit from rapid screening programs in order to catch cases early and break chains of transmission," Shandro said in the news release.
"We have heard from Alberta's business community and other organizations that hiring a health-care provider was a significant and costly barrier for many organizations.
"This change will allow more organizations to access rapid testing kits without compromising health and safety."
Eliminating the expense will make a difference for small and medium-sized businesses, said Alberta Chambers of Commerce president Ken Kobly in the news release.
More than 1.785 million rapid tests have been deployed across Alberta since the program launched in March.
Any organization is allowed to apply for the antigen tests, with priority given to businesses or organizations with vulnerable populations or high-risk settings.
Results take about 15 minutes; if an individual tests positive, they would be isolated then take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm if they have COVID-19 or not.
As of Sunday, Alberta has 20,136 active cases of COVID-19. There are 594 people in hospital including 140 in intensive care.