Rapid Covid-19 testing expands in NWT

A tent marks the site of drive-through Covid-19 testing in Yellowknife
A tent marks the site of drive-through Covid-19 testing in Yellowknife. Sarah Sibley/Cabin Radio

The NWT government says rapid testing for Covid-19 in the territory has been expanded and will grow further in the coming weeks.

The territory can now process up to 240 tests itself each week, a news release issued on Wednesday stated, instead of sending tests for analysis in Alberta as was initially the case.

Tests in Alberta can take several days to a week or more before results are known, whereas rapid tests allow for results within an hour.

“Before this milestone, rapid testing was limited to select, high-priority cases. Careful analysis of current territorial testing supplies has determined this level of testing is sustainable in the NWT,” the territory said.



BioFire rapid test devices are being used for the expanded testing program.

“An immediate benefit is that patients can expect to receive their Covid-19 results sooner,” the territorial government stated.

“Additional swabs beyond the NWT’s capacity of 240 tests per week will continue to be sent to Alberta for analysis.”

Capacity will grow to around 500 rapid tests per week once four more units arrive, the territory said, which is expected at the end of this week.



Rapid tests are considered a key plank of the NWT’s response to Covid-19. The territory’s recovery plan states rapid testing must be in place before the NWT can move to phase three from the current second phase.

“This is a good first step as we work towards getting the turnaround times we need,” said Julie Green, the territory’s new health minister.

According to the NWT government, an average of 175 tests have been collected weekly in the NWT since the beginning of August.

Demand for tests is expected to increase as cold and flu season arrives. A drive-through testing centre in Yellowknife recently reopened to cater to that anticipated increase, while the NWT is now also testing sewage for Covid-19 on a regular basis.