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B.C. clears COVID-19 test backlog, ups daily processing

Test capacity is now at about 3,500 per day in the province
Widespread testing is part of the “backbone” to suppressing the COVID-19 virus, according to the WHO. Photo: Tube containing a swab sample that has tested positive for COVID-19/Shutterstock

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has worked through a backlog of tests for COVID-19, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Tuesday (March 24).

Widespread testing is part of the “backbone” to suppressing the virus that has caused a pandemic among an unprotected population, according to the World health Organization.

Henry said health officials have tested close to 30,000 people as of Tuesday, up from 17,912 tests March 20.

The BCCDC reported 26,681 tests completed as of 8 p.m. Sunday (March 22).

Health Minister Adrian Dix said test capacity is now at about 3,500 per day via BCCDC and private laboratories such as LifeLabs. It’s unknown how long it takes on average to process tests.

Testing is focused on health care workers and people believed to be in contact with an infected person within the community, said Henry.

Despite reported hiccups by doctors in B.C. on testing and triage, Henry suggested B.C. is ahead of the curve on testing.

“Our testing strategy early on helped us better understand what was happening in our community and when we started having community spread. And I think both in northern Italy and in our neighbours to the south, particularly in Washington State, not having access to that testing early on meant having to play catch up.”

Testing nevertheless remains marred by production and orders of test equipment, said Henry this week. Last week, the federal government expedited two pieces of equipment for sale to provincial health authorities.