All NWT communities now have access to rapid Covid-19 testing that can give initial results in as little as 15 minutes, the NWT Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSAA) said in a news release Tuesday.

The achievement is a result of deployment of such technologies as the PanBio and ID Now point-of-care tests and the lab-based testing available in Yellowknife and Inuvik since October.

Tuesday’s development includes the distribution of PanBio kits and the addition of ID Now devices in Fort Providence, Fort Liard, Lutsel K’e and Fort Resolution. ID Now had already been rolled out in Behchoko, Hay River, Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson and Norman Wells.

All communities in the NWT now have access to rapid testing using the PanBio and ID Now devices. image courtesy of Abbott

ID Now devices can process about 25 tests per day.

PanBio tests deliver results similar to an over-the-counter pregnancy test.

Use of the devices is limited to symptomatic individuals.

All PanBio and IDNow kits will require confirmatory testing at a lab. Most confirmatory results are available within 24 to 48 hours.

Any positive results will be regarded as a presumptive positive with isolation and contact-tracing undertaken immediately.

The testing developments enhance the safety of NWT residents amid the pandemic and help ensure Covid-19 cases can be quickly identified, isolated and traced, said NTHSSA spokesperson David Maguire.

Receiving rapid results also allows people to return to their regular lives faster. Residents who haven’t travelled within 14 days, been exposed to Covid-19 or who have no fever can return to regular activities after they receive a negative test result.

Tracey Foster DeBaie, left, and Jessica Jonasson use an ID Now device in the Yellowknife Covid clinic. photo courtesy of the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority

“Getting point-of-care tests into every community across our territory has long been our objective,” said Sue Cullen, CEO of the NTHSSA. “Being able to receive a preliminary test result so quickly aligns with our system-wide goal of providing the best care to NWT residents. The efforts of staff across the system to make this a reality are to be commended.”

A negative test result isn’t a substitute for the two-week isolation period for people who have travelled or been exposed to Covid-19 because it can take up to 14 days for the virus to show up.

Both ID Now and PanBio require a nurse or physician to administer. In the six communities with health centres without regular doctors or nurses, rapid tests are available when those professionals are in the community on rotation.

When they’re not in the communities, a community health worker takes a throat swab that can be sent for priority testing to Stanton or Inuvik, where they’re processed as urgent at the laboratory.

Between Nov. 27 and Dec. 11, the average turnaround time for coronavirus testing across the NWT has been less than one day, or about 19 hours. Eighty per cent of tests were processed in just over 24.5 hours.

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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