Sudden restrictions on COVID-19 rapid tests cause confusion, frustration

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The province’s decision to restrict access to COVID-19 rapid test kits is confusing and frustrating.

As of Wednesday, rapid tests have only been available for people aged 2 to 49 with symptoms and can only be obtained by making an appointment.

Many people lining up at the Saint John test kit collection site on Wednesday were unaware of the changes, including a frontline worker who tests regularly due to the risk of exposure.

As recently as Wednesday, the province encouraged all New Brunswickers to “continue with periodic testing with rapid point-of-care tests if they have a known exposure, even if they are asymptomatic.”

Ahead of the holidays, he urged people to keep gatherings as small as possible and “use rapid tests to slow down and reduce the spread.”

People could buy more than one kit without even giving their name.

Now, people without symptoms are no longer eligible for a rapid test kit and anyone with symptoms must go through the COVID-19 test site, click on “get tested” and complete an online questionnaire.

“Those who are showing symptoms and who are between the ages of two and 49, and who do not live in a vulnerable environment, will be asked to take a rapid test,” Public Health said in a press release Wednesday afternoon.

“After registering their information, they can make an appointment to pick up a rapid test kit from a local assessment center. Anyone coming for rapid tests must present an appointment confirmation email. “

If people can’t make an appointment online because they don’t have access to a computer or the Internet, they can call Tele-Care 811 “right now,” said Bruce Macfarlane, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health.

The province has also stopped providing the free rapid test kits to airports in Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton, Macfarlane confirmed.

“Provide a rapid POCT [point-of-care rapid-test kits] to the province’s three major airports was a temporary preventative measure meant to capture travel-related cases during the holiday season, “he said in an emailed statement.” Our goal as a province is to slow the spread of COVID-19, and ensure hospital capacity.

Tuesday’s press release on other new COVID-19 tests and isolation measures that went into effect at 11:59 p.m. made no mention of the changes, but Macfarlane confirmed to CBC News on Tuesday evening that the symptoms and appointments – You are now required for the rapid test kits. No reason was given.

Green Party leader David Coon called the move to “severely limit” access to rapid tests “short-sighted and unnecessary.”

“Waiting a week for an appointment to pick up the rapid test kit makes this irrational,” he posted on Twitter.

“Why wouldn’t you tell anyone about it in advance?” Megan Mitton, MP for Memramcook-Tantramar and Green Party health critic, asked on social media.

“Why do government communications continue to be confusing? “

Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr Jennifer Russell, said “this is a very rapidly changing situation.”

“We are building this as it unfolds,” she said. “So we want to make sure we have everything in place, you know, behind the scenes as to what needs to be done on the website, the logistics, the operations of all of that.

“So all of these pieces take time and work and effort. Again, you have to have all of these things lined up to announce and prepare people.”

People who show up without an appointment on Wednesday will not be turned away, she said, as the province is “in this period of transition.” But they will need an appointment in the future, which will avoid the long lines in winter, she added.

Mitton said it was “a mess” at the Port Elgin site.

“I heard that people came to the mobile rapid test collection site and were told to go home and register (even though they didn’t have the internet). heard that there were screams and [frustration], she tweeted around 3:30 p.m.

Horizon Health Network posted on social media that the change would not take effect until Thursday and would remain so “until further notice.”

At the Moncton distribution center, however, they stopped testing walk-in people around 3 p.m., CBC reporter Pascal Raiche-Nogue said.

The booking process itself is also confusing, due to some mixed messages.

People now need to show symptoms of COVID-19 to get a rapid test kit, but their appointment confirmation comes with a message that says, “If you have symptoms or feel sick on the day of your appointment. you, please don’t come. “

Only people with symptoms can get a rapid test kit, but when making an appointment, they are told not to show up for the appointment if they have symptoms or are feeling sick. (Government of New Brunswick)

Russell said she didn’t know about it and will tell the people who built the website about it.

The province’s COVID-19 testing website says, “If you have one or more symptoms, you should self-isolate and register for a COVID-19 test.”

“You are allowed to leave the isolation to take a PCR test or to collect your POCT kits.”

Meanwhile, the top of Horizon website says, “You must have symptoms of COVID-19 and an appointment to pick up the point-of-care (POCT) test kits,” while the bottom still says the rapid test screening program is “for persons 2 years of age and over who do not have symptoms. “

“I think it will take a few days to resolve the issues, but I’m very confident it will be as streamlined as possible,” Russell said, urging people to be patient.

“As we go along it will get easier and it will get simpler.”

The queue at the Saint John rapid test kit collection site was much shorter on Wednesday under the new appointment system than it was last week, when it spanned across one kilometer. (Roger Cosman / CBC)

Some people skipped the screening questionnaire and made appointments to pick up the rapid test kit, although they had no symptoms.

Russell discourages this.

“We don’t want to unnecessarily run out of people who really need it,” she said.

“We can’t control all of these things. We just have to be confident that people will do the right thing.”

When asked what motivated the change in distribution and if it was supply-related, Russell’s response focused instead on the change in test usage.

Province now limits laboratory diagnostic tests using PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to those considered most at risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19, while everyone must rely on rapid home tests less accurate and self-report positive results.

“We try to focus our efforts, our energy and our resources on the health system in order to keep people out of the hospital,” she said.

Over the next week the province will have 1.75 million rapid tests and next week it will have three million tests, she noted.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell called on people to be patient as the province fixes “problems” with the new online registration system. (Ed Hunter / CBC)

Horizon Health posted on Twitter that its rapid screening pickup points – both hub and mobile – will have “limited supplies available” on Wednesday.

“This means that we may not always be open during our scheduled hours at our pick-up locations.”

PCR tests will now be reserved for those most at risk of being hospitalized due to COVID-19. These include:

  • Healthcare workers and those who live or work in long-term care facilities, homeless shelters and correctional facilities.
  • Symptomatic people aged 50 and over.
  • Symptomatic and immunocompromised people.
  • Symptomatic and pregnant people.
  • People identified as priority by Public Health.

People who need a PCR test to travel, residents of First Nations communities, and children under the age of two are also eligible to receive a PCR test.

For everyone else, a positive rapid test will be treated as a positive result for COVID-19, and people will be asked to save their results online.

“Due to the increase in the number of cases caused by the Omicron variant, we need to make sure that everyone with symptoms can be tested,” Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said in a statement. “This means that people without symptoms are not eligible for a rapid test kit.”

There is no need to store tests, she said, encouraging anyone with kits at home and no symptoms to share the tests with family and friends who may need them.

“We are planning access to additional rapid tests over the next few days and weeks for anyone with symptoms and must make sure to protect our most vulnerable,” she said.

Once people test positive on a rapid test, no further testing is required, according to the province’s website.

You will continue to test positive for up to 90 days, even though you may no longer be contagious. Therefore, do not continue testing until you get a negative result, ”he says.

Isolation rules

People who test positive with a rapid test must isolate for five days if they are vaccinated with two doses, or 10 days if they have not received two doses or are immunocompromised.

Their period of isolation begins the day they test positive.

They may stop isolating themselves after their isolation period is over if they have not had a fever for at least 24 hours without using antipyretic drugs and their symptoms improve.

After isolation, they must wear a mask continuously and avoid vulnerable places and gatherings for the next five days.

All household contacts of people who test positive should self-isolate for five days if they are fully vaccinated and 10 days if not fully vaccinated.

All close non-family contacts should self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days, regardless of vaccination status.



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