Schools in province to be shipped 100,000 rapid tests

·3 min read

On Monday the province announced that K-12 schools across the province are currently being shipped 100,000 rapid tests. Rapid testing for COVID-19 in schools may begin as early as this week.

"A rapid testing program in schools is another excellent tool to help monitor the presence of COVID-19," Education Minister Dustin Duncan said.

"The safety of students, teachers, and school staff is our government's priority, and school staff and students have done an excellent job in helping to prevent transmission of the virus."

Teachers and school staff are not expected to administer the tests.

“Our goal is the health and safety of all Saskatchewan residents,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said in a release.

“This additional measure gives us another tool to monitor school environments and take further steps to protect the health and safety of staff and students if necessary.” The rapid antigen tests use a short nasal swab and can be administered by laypeople who have completed a training program through the Saskatchewan Health Authority lab. Schools will work with their local medical health officers to determine when testing is appropriate and will work with parents and caregivers to ensure consent is in place. A positive test requires confirmation by a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test provided by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA). A negative test does not need to be confirmed as long as the individual has no symptoms of COVID-19. The School Testing Deployment Plan for COVID-19 is being implemented by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

NDP respond to COVID-19 numbers in the province

In response to the COVID-19 case numbers in Regina and area announced today Official Opposition NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat released a statement calling on the government to take more action on COVID-19.

“Saskatchewan people want to do what is right and help each other to get to the finish line of COVID-19, when everyone has been vaccinated and we have herd immunity. We aren’t there yet, and until we are we need leadership from the Premier and the government to keep people safe,” Mowat said.

“The Premier owes the people of Saskatchewan an explanation, and a plan. He should release the modelling for COVID-19 variants to the people of this province, including the potential for spread beyond Regina and area to other communities. And he needs to make clear to the people of Saskatchewan that we are not out of the woods yet. Anything less is merely a continuation of his failed leadership on COVID-19.”

Mowat said that Saskatchewan residents are being left on their own as variants of concern taking over areas of the province such as Regina.

“Today we see another 102 new cases in the Regina zone and a large increase in hospitalizations and ICU admission in the provincial capital,” Mowat said.

She pointed fingers directly at Premier Moe for not taking responsibility.

“Businesses are being told to stay open while their customers are being urged to stay home. Schools in Regina are closing and surgeries are facing incredible wait-times. It appears case numbers will only increase, adding to the pressure on health care facilities and hard-working staff,”

Mowat pointed to opportunities to act such as the circuit breaker advocated by the NDP in November and relaxing restrictions recently when variants of concern were beginning to rise.

“He chose to relax restrictions instead of taking targeted action to protect the people of Saskatchewan,” Mowat said.

“There has been no wide-spread rapid testing in schools, long-term care facilities, high-risk communities and workplaces. Despite having rapid tests available for months, the government only announced a shipment for schools today, and the Sask. Party is relying on a tender for private delivery of tests that doesn’t close until April 30 - more than a month down the road,” she explained.

Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald