Four-hour waits for COVID-19 drive-thru testing in Regina unacceptable: health CEO

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REGINA — The head of the Saskatchewan Health Authority says it's unacceptable that some people in Regina have been waiting up to four hours to get tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru clinic.

Scott Livingstone says the site has seen some of its highest volumes in the pandemic over the past three days.

He says hours at the drive-thru site are being expanded as the health authority scales up its testing capacity in the city.

On Wednesday, the site shut its gates an hour early because of how many people were waiting for testing. It had reported four- to five-hour waits throughout the day.

"It's not acceptable to have people wait that long in line for tests," Livingstone said at a virtual news conference Thursday.

"And that is why we're aggressively expanding capacity so they don't have to wait and we can meet demand."

The Regina area has been dealing with a spike in COVID-19 cases, many of which are thought to be from more infectious variants of the virus.

Of Saskatchewan's 1,064 variant cases, 895 have been found in and around Regina.

Most of the confirmed mutations have been of the strain first identified in the United Kingdom, known as B.1.1.7, believed to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.

Health officials have spent weeks urging Regina residents to get tested and believe most of the city's active cases to be from variants.

The government earlier this week tightened public-health rules for Regina and surrounding communities.

Residents are not to have visitors in their homes, people are advised not to travel outside the region and restaurants are to be limited to takeout and delivery starting Sunday.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, said COVID-19 case numbers are also rising south of Regina, including variants.

There were 154 people with COVID-19 in hospital in Saskatchewan on Thursday, with 22 people in intensive care.

Because of variant spread, hospitals are seeing younger patients come in with COVID-19, particularly in intensive care, said the health authority.

Livingstone said of the 35 people with COVID-19 who were admitted to intensive care in Regina over the past month, one was older than 70. Half of the last ten people admitted to intensive care were under 40.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2021

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press