Province stops asymptomatic COVID-19 testing

·2 min read

Asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 has been suspended by the province.

The move to stop testing for individuals not experiencing symptoms and with no known possible exposure to the virus was announced by Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer, during a press conference on Oct. 20. It follows an announcement made Sept. 17 that the province was shifting to offering asymptomatic testing for priority groups only.

This previous restriction did not sufficiently decrease wait times for testing, said Hinshaw. This is because more tests are being processed than ever, largely because of an increasing number of Albertans presenting cold and flu symptoms.

“With both COVID cases and the number of symptomatic tests rising, we must take further action,” she said. “This is an important and necessary step that will help us reduce testing wait times, get results to Albertans and limit the spread.”

No new tests will be booked by AHS or pharmacies as of Oct. 20. However, previously booked tests will be performed until Nov. 4.

The decision is an indication that Alberta’s healthcare system is undergoing strain, said Dr. Joni McNeely, a local physician.

“The rising daily case rate and increase in hospitalizations are very worrisome,” she said. “I imagine by limiting testing to symptomatic people or those who have been identified as close contacts, Alberta Health Services hopes to strike a balance of effective test and trace protocols with prudent use of its resources.”

Any Albertan with symptoms or anyone who are close contacts of a confirmed case or linked to an outbreak will still be tested.

Asymptomatic people have rarely tested positive – of the more than 659,000 asymptomatic tests performed on Albertans with no known exposure, only 0.11 per cent have come back positive, according to the province.

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times