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COVID testing speeds up, with more rapid testing on the way

COVID-19 test results are now coming back within a day and a half, according to the GNWT’s chief public health officer.

But Dr. Kami Kandola said there had been no decisions about whether the improved return times on test results would see the mandatory 14 day self-isolation period shortened.

“There are a lot of moving pieces on that we’re watching what’s happening in the rest of Canada and a lot has changed in the past week, and we’ll see how this second wave levels off,” she said.

Dr. Kami Kandola said GNWT was able to clear a small backlog recently and this allows ”everyone to get back to their lives sooner.”

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Wait times have shortened as Health Canada has approved several different rapid testing products for health care use. The GNWT is currently using the GeneExpert test – which produces results in under an hour – and the Biofire Respiratory Panel test kits. 

The third rapid testing method, the Simplexa testing kit, is still being validated but GNWT hopes to have it up-and-running soon, according to Mike Westwick, manager of the COVID-19 communications team at GNWT.

This comes as Health Canada approves another rapid testing kit, the fourth to be approved. The Panbio test – produced by the German company Abbot Rapid Diagnostics – can return test results in 15 minutes without samples being sent to a lab.

The federal government has ordered 20 million of the Panbio kit. They have also ordered 7.9 million of the ID Now Tests – also produced by Abbot – that return results in 13 minutes. But ID Now Tests need an analyzer box to examine the patient’s sample, unlike the Panbio kit.

Kandola said GNWT is expecting a shipment of the newly approved rapid testing kits could arrive in NT before the end of December, with another shipment arriving in March. She added GNWT is actively discussing its testing situation with the federal government.

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“We know longer turnaround times for test results have made it a tougher choice for folks to call their local healthcare professional,” said Kandola. “But that reality has changed, test results are coming back quickly.

Abbott’s website says the Panbio test is accurate with positive results 93 per cent of the time, and negative results 99 per cent of the time.

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