Sask. Government looking to expand COVID-19 testing
REGINA -- Demand for COVID-19 tests in Saskatchewan has dropped as new cases have become rare outside of the far north region.
In the past week, testing numbers in the province peaked at 941 last Thursday, however, only 256 tests were performed on Monday and 462 on Tuesday, which is well below the provincial capacity of 1,500 per day.
On Tuesday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority said it believes a stigma around COVID-19 has led to people not seeking out tests despite having symptoms.
Premier Scott Moe says the low testing numbers is a good sign, but he wants the province to get more aggressive with its testing.
"I’ve asked the SHA to look at how we could expand, understanding we have the testing capacity," Moe said during Wednesday’s COVID-19 update.
The majority of tests conducted in the province are in La Loche and surrounding areas as the SHA provides door-to-door and drive-thru testing to deal with the outbreak in the region, which has seen the most positive cases in the province.
The Premier wants to look at testing more elsewhere in the province to get ahead of any outbreaks.
"In some higher risk areas of our communities doing some degree of board-based testing, using that capacity that we have, so that we are able to take the very first step earlier of identifying someone that is positive with COVID-19 and stepping in with our contact tracing a few days earlier than we would," Moe said.
"Now that we have this testing capacity, we can really look at where we can use this testing capacity to ensure that we are, one, keeping any outbreaks to a minimum and, two, ensuring that those outbreaks don’t occur in some of our most vulnerable operations and locations."
Moe adds an announcement of how the expanded testing would work can be expected in the "coming days."
The provincial government will also be looking into the antibody testing approved by Health Canada on Tuesday.
The test can detect antibodies in an individual’s blood to determine whether a person was exposed to COVID-19 previously. Giving health officials an idea of how many people were infected with the virus, outside of those who tested positive.
"The big answer is how much of protection does prior infection give you, that’s a question to which a clear answer is not available, so that’s another thing the serology test will provide," Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said.
Shahab doesn’t expect antibody testing to be available in the province for weeks or even months.