Demand for Covid-19 testing has decreased in the NWT, along with the number of tests pending, the GNWT said on Thursday.

There were 1,736 coronavirus tests completed as of Thursday, with 53 tests pending, according to the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS), down from 181 tests pending on March 31 when the NWT had only one confirmed case of the virus.

“Current demand for testing has leveled off (and since dipped) from our high – we had an initial spike in requests when the first few confirmed cases were announced. This is to be expected as confirmed cases generally encourage people to get tested,” said Mike Westwick, an HSS spokesperson.

Nurses speak with a visitor at the Covid-19 drive-through clinic in Yellowknife. Blair McBride/NNSL photo

The busiest period for testing was between March 16 and March 30 when 859 tests were collected.

The busiest days were March 24-25, when 100 and 98 tests were collected, respectively.

Health measures making a difference

One factor behind the drop in testing is that fewer people are returning from travel due to public health orders and after the last case was confirmed almost one month ago there are no ongoing contact investigations, Westwick said.

All five of the NWT’s confirmed cases were reported on April 20 as recovered.

RELATED REPORTING: All five Covid cases in NWT have recovered, GNWT says

There are also other illnesses circulating in the community such as seasonal flu and colds that cause symptoms similar to coronavirus and “as these other illnesses ebb and flow we expect it will also affect the demand for testing,” Westwick said.

Physical distancing is also leading to fewer infections of illnesses and there is a lag time between the introduction of public health measures and their effects seen on the front lines.

Swab kit testing is ongoing across the territory and HSS said anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms should contact their local health clinic about testing options, call 811 or check the online self-assessment tool.

HSS last week expanded its testing criteria and the list now includes: fever, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath, tiredness, feeling unwell, sore throat, muscle aches, runny nose, headache, diarrhea, vomiting and loss of sense of smell.

Faster test results with new kits

Swab test results can take up to one week to be processed at a laboratory in Edmonton, according to HSS.

Point-of-care test kits, such as the portable Spartan Cube which can reduce the results processing time to less than an hour should be ready to use in the NWT in one to three weeks, Westwick said.

“We will be getting seven Spartan Cube and four Genexpert devices. We have received two GeneXpert devices and expect the other two in the coming week or so. We expect to receive some of the Spartan devices next week.”

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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