Private labs offering COVID-19 tests say they've been busier than usual, since Saskatchewan announced a policy requiring either proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result for a range of activities.
September was the busiest month so far for Quantum Genetix, the Saskatoon-based lab's general manager says.
"For PCR testing, we've seen about a 35 per cent increase and for the rapid antigen testing, it's closer to 300 per cent," said Heather Deobald, with many getting tested for work and travel.
The rapid antigen test is less expensive than the more sensitive PCR test. The province accepts both tests as proof of a negative COVID-19 test result.
The test must be done by a designated lab and the result has to be from within the last 72 hours.
Self-administered take-home tests, such as the ones supplied to Saskatchewan elementary schools, are not considered valid proof.
Under provincial rules in effect since Oct. 1, either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result is required to enter some businesses and venues in Saskatchewan. That requirement applies to a range of services and businesses, including dining indoors at a restaurant, going to a bar or nightclub, or attending event or entertainment venues.
Ryan Galloway, operations manager at the testing company Nobel HSSE Management, says the demand has been "extremely overwhelming" since the province announced the requirement in mid-September.
"We have been fairly steady with travellers getting on flights up until this point. With the announcement, we have gotten calls from all over the province, especially with the province suspending asymptomatic testing," said Galloway, whose lab has offices in Regina and Oxbow, Sask.
Nobel and Quantum are partners and offer services at similar prices at more than 20 locations in Saskatchewan.
Rapid antigen tests cost about $90 before tax. Meanwhile, PCR tests are around $200, with higher prices for same-day results.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority is only providing PCR tests to people who have COVID-19 symptoms, have a positive antigen test, are a close contact to a positive COVID case or need it for other medical reasons.
The province has said that getting tested is not a substitute for getting vaccinated and is encouraging everyone eligible to get their shots.
About 55,000 people have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine since the government announced its proof of vaccination system, according to the province's online COVID-19 dashboard.