Saskatchewan underestimated need for rapid tests during fourth wave, emails indicate
Saskatchewan underestimated how many rapid antigen tests were needed during the height of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, while also touting the tests as a key part of its plan to halt transmission of the virus, internal emails indicate.
Documents obtained under freedom of information laws show the province emailing Health Canada in September and October 2021 asking for millions more tests than were originally requested.
"Our warehouse has just confirmed that they have shipped over half of the 500,000 tests that were received last week, and orders for test kits are coming in faster than anticipated from all corners of the province," said an email from the province on Sept. 20.
The 120 pages of emails that are partially redacted show correspondence between Health Canada staff and Saskatchewan government and health authority employees regarding COVID-19 assistance in late 2021 as the province faced surging infections, hospitalizations and pressures on intensive care units. All names of provincial employees have been redacted.
Saskatchewan's Ministry of Health says the province anticipated strong public demand for rapid antigen test kits, and took measures as early as May 2021 for them to be used by individuals for self-testing.
"As a sufficient supply of tests was secured from the federal government, the province opened wider public distribution channels, eventually resulting in over 600 locations where the public could access tests," the ministry said in a statement.
The province said as of last Friday, Saskatchewan has distributed over 25 million rapid tests, including 11.8 million tests directly to the public.
At the start of September, provincial health authority staff initially emailed Health Canada saying one million tests would be sufficient for at least two months -- and suggested to Ottawa the province could receive them in biweekly batches of 250,000.
Saskatchewan had just announced an at-home testing pilot for students under the age of 12, along with their families. Emails show there was also increasing demand for workplace screening across the province.
A little more than a week later, the authority emailed Health Canada to say its warehouse was empty and requested a scheduled delivery of tests be expedited.
"With your warehouse out of supplies, does that change your demand of 500,000 tests in September and 500,000 in October?" Sebastien Poirier with Health Canada asked in an email on Sept. 11.
The province reassured the federal department its original order was enough.
"The total of (one) million tests arriving in September and October is forecast to meet our needs," said an email from the province on Sept. 12.
The next day the province issued a new provincial emergency order. A week later, emails showed, it became clear that number of rapid tests would not be enough.
The province requested an additional one million tests for October -- on top of the 500,000 it had already ordered. The federal department responded in an email that it was "juggling a few urgent requests" and had limited inventory.
Saskatchewan was reporting record-high numbers of people in hospital from the wave fuelled by the Delta COVID-19 variant and front-line health-care workers were voicing their concern that it would get worse. Surgeries and tests were being cancelled and staff were redeployed to COVID-19 wards.
Parents were posting on social media how there weren't enough tests for the at-home testing pilot for students. The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation issued a public call for the government to improve measures to help keep children from getting COVID-19.
By the end of September, Saskatchewan asked for two million tests for the next month. That bumped up even more in October.
"If 3.5 (million) is available, we would take them. Just wanted to make sure that this request is in addition to what we have requested for the October allocation," an email from the province said.
At that time, Saskatchewan was also urging universities and businesses with more than 200 employees to contact the federal government for a program that distributed COVID-19 screening kits.
Emails show that Health Canada employees usually redirected educational institutions back to provinces to get the COVID-19 tests and it was worried about what Saskatchewan's demands would do to the overall supply.
"In my view, with the public health situation in (Saskatchewan), we should assist," wrote Angie Barrados, with Health Canada, in a Sept. 28 email.
Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman had declined federal support at the end of September as COVID-19 pressures mounted on the province. The federal government was caught off guard when Merriman requested urgent help only a few weeks later.
Demand for the rapid test kits came from across Canada and some leaders criticized the federal government for a lack of supply. Without an abundance of tests, provinces and territories were rolling out different plans for distribution, most erring on the side of caution that there may not be much access to tests.
Emails showed Health Canada was sharing information with Saskatchewan about upcoming test procurements and the possibilities to support that province.
By mid-October, Saskatchewan was preparing to hand out 1.3 million rapid self-test kits to the public at fire halls, local chambers of commerce and health authority testing centres.
"Starting the week of Oct. 18, Saskatchewan households will be able to take home a COVID-19 rapid antigen test kit to support asymptomatic testing," Premier Scott Moe posted on social media.
Access was expanded further in November and they were available to libraries and Co-op grocery stores.
Saskatchewan has received a total of 31,760,783 rapid tests from the federal government as of Jan. 25.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.
Regina Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Canada makes amendments to foreign homebuyers ban – here's what they look like
Months after Canada's ban on foreign homebuyers took effect on Jan. 1, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has made several amendments to the legislation allowing non-Canadians to purchase residential properties in certain circumstances.
'Leave this with me': Alberta premier heard on call with COVID-19 protester
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, in a leaked cellphone call, commiserated with a COVID-19 protester about his trial while divulging to him there was an internal dispute over how Crown prosecutors were handling COVID-19 cases.
What is the grocery rebate in federal budget 2023? Key questions, answered
To help offset rising living expenses, the Government of Canada has introduced a one-time grocery rebate for low- and modest-income Canadians. Here is what we know about the rebate.
RCMP arrest 5 while executing search warrant at Wet'suwet'en protest camp
RCMP officers executed a search warrant at a protest camp on Wet'suwet'en traditional territory near the under-construction Coastal GasLink pipeline Wednesday.
'Compostable' food packaging may contain hazardous 'forever chemicals': Canadian study
As Canada phases out single-use plastics, more restaurants are opting to use 'compostable' takeout containers. But a new study suggests some of these supposedly eco-friendly containers may pose hazards to our health and the environment.
Could Usain Bolt outrun a 900-pound dinosaur? Physics professor poses the question
A new academic paper pits legendary sprinter Usain Bolt against a 900-pound dinosaur to see who could run a 100-metre distance the fastest.
Recalled in Canada: Change tables over entrapment hazard, hoodies due to risk of choking
Health Canada has issued two recalls, one for change tables over an entrapment hazard and another for bamboo nursing hoodies due to a risk of choking.
Many Canadians like to tell 'white lies' about home-cooked meals: survey
Have you ever had to lie about the quality of a home-cooked meal to protect someone's feelings? According to a new survey by Research Co. you’re not the only one.
Spending to increase economic capacity is fiscally responsible, Freeland says in post-budget defence
Defending her latest federal budget, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said spending that increases economic capacity is fiscally responsible.
Saskatoon police release video of 3 people placing 'large container' in dumpster where body was found
Saskatoon Police Service is asking for the public’s help in identifying three individuals they believe are connected to a suspicious death.
Saskatoon murder trial on hold as police investigate new revelations
A Saskatoon murder trial is being adjourned to allow police to follow-up on "significant information" that just came to the Crown prosecutor's attention Wednesday.
Dog that attacked five-year-old Saskatoon boy involved in three other attacks
CTV News has learned a dog that attacked a five-year-old boy last week had been declared dangerous in February 2022, but the city had lost track of the owner a year ago.
Manitobans should prepare for a gas price hike according to an expert
Come the weekend, Manitobans will be paying more for gas and the price could climb even higher in the coming weeks and months according to a gas expert.
Brandon pauses public engagement on 30-year vision over 'inappropriate and unsafe behaviour'
The City of Brandon has paused its public consultation on its 30-year plan for the city due to 'inappropriate and unsafe behaviour' from some residents.
Manitoba family launches lawsuit over COVID-19 vaccination
A Manitoba family has launched a lawsuit alleging their 23-year-old son had a stroke days after receiving a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving him legally blind.
‘I started breaking down:’ Friends remember 15-year-old homicide victim
A 15-year-old girl shot to death in the community of Martindale early Tuesday morning, has now been identified by friends and police as Sarah Alexis Jorquera.
Woman in custody, charges pending following Lions Park LRT station stabbing
Calgary police say they've arrested a woman in connection with a stabbing at the Lions Park LRT station that stemmed from a fight between several people.
Lethbridge UCP candidate Torry Tanner's claims against teachers disputed
A United Conservative Party candidate in Lethbridge claims teachers are exposing students to pornography and gender reassignment without parental knowledge.
Online video between Danielle Smith and Artur Pawlowski raises questions over interference
In an online video, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is heard speaking with outspoken Calgary pastor Artur Pawlowski, creating questions about her influence on Alberta court cases.
Man found dead in SUV, Edmonton homicide detectives on the case
Police are looking for help in the suspicious death of a man found in a vehicle in north Edmonton Wednesday morning.
'Serious labour shortage' holding Alberta's tourism sector back: industry advocates
Alberta's tourism sector has a "serious labour shortage" that can threaten its long-term viability, a new labour study has found.
BREAKING | Man pulled from house fire in Toronto's Junction Triangle dies in hospital
A man is dead after being pulled from a fire at a home in Toronto’s Junction Triangle neighbourhood.
A rare weather phenomenon strikes southern Ontario again
Thundersnow has struck southern Ontario for a second time this month.
Why is there no cell service on the TTC? Riders say it could increase safety
The Toronto Transit Commission signed a deal in 2012 to provide cellular service on the subway network, but over a decade later, few are able to make a call in an emergency—something the TTC board members, riders and parents say has to change in the wake of the death of Gabriel Magalhaes.
LRT | Stage 2 of Ottawa LRT faces further delay
The long-awaited southern extension to Ottawa's light rail network is facing a further delay, a city committee heard Wednesday.
Truck held together with bungee cord pulled off the road in eastern Ontario
Quinte OPP says officers stopped the vehicle on Trenton-Frankford Road on Wednesday with a bungee rope stretching across the back of the truck.
Migrants' influx helps Cornwall, Ont. labour shortage
Hundreds of migrants, who have crossed the Canadian border at Roxham Road in Quebec and have settled in Cornwall, were on the hunt for jobs on Wednesday.
'I made it': Inside the addiction and mental health treatment ongoing at old Riverview Hospital site
The Riverview Hospital itself has been closed for more than a decade, but 289 people are currently receiving treatment for mental health, addictions or both at the old site.
City of Vancouver considering requiring grant recipients to be 'respectful' in order to get funding
Vancouver city council has asked staff to shape a policy that would require grant recipients to engage with officials in a "respectful manner," a move that one political scientist says suggests an attempt to prevent or punish criticism.
'A freeze response of shock': Expert weighs in on bystanders not stepping in during fatal Vancouver stabbing
After a man was fatally stabbed outside of a Vancouver Starbucks in front of dozens of witnesses, video of the attack is circulating on social media, raising questions about why nobody stepped in to help.
Bill 15: Quebec tables legislation to overhaul health system
The CAQ government has unveiled its long-promised plan to improve Quebec's public health network. Tabled at the Quebec legislature Wednesday by Health Minister Christian Dubé, Bill 15 promises a major shakeup.
'I lost a brother': Funeral held for teen who died in Old Montreal fire
Almost two weeks after his death, a funeral was held in Laval Wednesday for a teenager who died in the fire in Old Montreal.
Flooded and fed up: St-Leonard homeowners file class-action suit over heavy rain damages
A group of homeowners in St-Leonard has filed a class-action lawsuit against their borough and the City of Montreal, claiming municipal authorities are to blame for repeated floodings during heavy rain.
IIO investigating after man driving construction vehicle shot, seriously injured by police in Duncan, B.C.
A man was taken to hospital with serious injuries following a police shooting in Duncan, B.C., on Tuesday evening.
Vancouver Island non-profit calls for more support for women with brain injuries from violent partners
A Vancouver Island non-profit is calling for more support for women who suffer a brain injury at the hands of a violent partner.
Police investigating 'targeted' attempted arson at home in Saanich
Police are investigating what they believe was a targeted arson attack at a home north of Victoria.
N.S. mass shooting inquiry report must deliver 'clear commentary': family lawyer
A lawyer who represents Nova Scotia mass shooting victims' families said in an interview they are hoping "for clear commentary on what things went wrong and what things ought to have been done better or differently."
Cold front to sweep mix of snow, rain across the Maritimes Thursday
A low-pressure system moving north of the St. Lawrence River valley will sweep a cold front across the Maritimes on Thursday.
How Portapique residents past and present are dealing with reminders of the 2020 mass shooting
The eve of the release of the final report from the inquiry into Nova Scotia’s 2020 mass shooting is a reminder for residents of Portapique of their small community’s traumatic past.
Northern Ont. family ‘ecstatic’ as 25-year-old murder mystery finally solved
Robert Steven Wright was convicted Wednesday of murdering Renee Sweeney, a little more than 25 years after her brutal killing shocked the community.
B.C. man pleads guilty to northern Ont. shooting, Crown drops attempted murder charge
A man who admitted to shooting up a home in Greater Sudbury in 2020 over a drug theft pled guilty Wednesday to reduced charges.
Driver caught travelling 200km/hr on major Ontario highway
A 20-year-old has been charged with careless driving after travelling double the speed limit on a major Ontario highway.
'Fairly emotional for everybody': Teen struck by LRT visits emergency crews who rescued him
Several weeks after a teen was stuck under an LRT train in Kitchener, he’s now up and walking and visited the emergency crews who helped rescue him.
Cambridge municipal election candidate suing city after names left off ballot
A retired political science professor says he was “stunned” by the way the Cambridge municipal election unfolded.
Businesses weigh in on government’s plan to reduce credit card fees
The federal government is touting plans to help small businesses by reducing credit card fees, but some local merchants say while they welcome the measure, the actual impact it will have on their operations will be minimal.