The Northwest Territories is working on expanding its rapid testing capability for Covid-19 – a key requirement for the move to phase three of its plan to ease pandemic restrictions.
Since May, two GeneXpert testing systems have been available for use at Yellowknife’s Stanton Territorial Hospital. According to the manufacturer, they can produce test results for Covid-19 in 45 minutes.
David Maguire, a representative from the territory’s health and social services authority, said the authority plans to install a third testing system at the Inuvik Regional Hospital.
The authority expects to acquire another, separate rapid testing system at the Yellowknife hospital: a BioFire Torch base unit and two modules.
The BioFire Torch is a lab-based system that uses disposable cartridges, like the GeneXpert. It was approved by Health Canada in May.
According to BioFire, its system can test for the virus that causes Covid-19 – along with 21 other viruses and bacteria that cause respiratory infections – in about 45 minutes.
Maguire said the territory still faces shortages of the GeneXpert system’s cartridges. There are also limited supplies of cartridges for the BioFire Torch devices.
As a result, the rapid testing systems remain reserved only for high-priority use. The majority of NWT tests are being sent to an Alberta lab for results, as has been the case throughout the pandemic.
The territory previously planned to use Spartan Bioscience’s Cube Covid-19 system – a handheld device that can also provide rapid test results – in regional centres. However, the Canadian manufacturer recalled the devices after Health Canada restricted their use to research only in May.
At the time, the territory’s chief public health officer said the recall wouldn’t affect the territory’s plans to expand testing.
As of Wednesday, 2,748 tests for Covid-19 had been completed in the Northwest Territories. A further 83 were awaiting results. There have been five confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the territory, which were all declared recovered as of April 20.