Photo Credit: Mark Davis

Closing the Barn Door After the Horse Has Bolted?

BC is late to the game when it comes to handing out rapid antigen tests

Teachers union has been calling for rapid tests for months and are glad the government is finally doing it

Kindergarten to Grade 12 students on the North Island are being offered a box of free rapid antigen tests to take home in case they or their family members get COVID-19 symptoms. It’s part of a province-wide rapid testing rollout that comes a little late, according to many critics.

Stephanie Higginson, president of the BC School Trustees Association, says each school will decide how to distribute the test kits once they get their shipment. Some may send them home with students; others may ask a parent to pick them up.

But many believe it’s taken way too long for the province to hand out testing kits while other jurisdictions in Canada and the world have widely embraced rapid tests. Many other provinces handed out rapid tests to students weeks, or even months ago.

Retired physician Dr. Lyne Filiatrault is part of Protect Our Province BC, a group of health professionals advocating science-based policies around COVID-19.  

She told CBC News said that the government should have been handing them out at the end of 2021 when the Omicron variant was spreading like wildfire.

“For some reason, our public health officials have basically discredited rapid antigen tests, and I think it’s a big misunderstanding,” she said

In a CTV News report, BCTeachers Federation president Teri Mooring called it “a long time coming.”

“Rapid testing is something we have been calling for for a long time, so it’s good to have them now, at least. And I know families will make good use of them,” Mooring said.

She would also like to see more tests made available for teachers and support staff, who were given two tests each.

The BC Government says that between Dec. 13 and Feb. 22, it distributed 14.8 million tests out of 22.2 million that it had in stock.

Most went to health care workers, testing sites, long-term care and assisted living facilities and rural, remote and indigenous communities. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province expects shipments of another 12 million tests over the next four weeks.