Coronavirus

NWT considers shorter self-isolation as rapid tests approved


Hours after Health Canada approved a test that can detect Covid-19 in as little as 13 minutes, the NWT’s chief public health officer said it could mean reduced self-isolation times.

On Wednesday, Health Canada approved the Abbott ID Now rapid Covid-19 test – a day after the federal government announced it would buy up to 7.9 million of the tests.

During a briefing for reporters that afternoon, Dr Kami Kandola said the territory was using modelling to determine how the tests could shorten self-isolation times. At the moment, anyone entering the territory is required to self-isolate for 14 days (with a few exceptions). 

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“We are reviewing the evidence on the relationship between testing periods and risk of transmission to prepare to implement a new strategy when these technologies are available to us in Canada,” Kandola said. 

She noted the Abbott ID Now tests require fewer lab personnel and can be used outside specialized settings like hospitals. 

But with Christmas and the holiday season approaching, northerners shouldn’t expect travel restrictions to ease any time soon.

Kandola said she expects border restrictions and self-isolation requirements of some sort will remain in place for at least another six months, keeping the NWT in phase two of its pandemic recovery plan.

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“We’re on the upswing of a second wave. This is not a good time to let go of restrictions, that I can say with certainty,” Kandola said. 

The territory has already been working to increase its rapid testing capabilities. Kandola said the majority of tests are now being analyzed in the NWT, rather than in Alberta, and the average wait time for results has dropped to roughly three days.

“This is increasing our resilience and reducing our reliance on others to deliver the service residents want and deserve,” she said. 

“This means kids are getting back to school and parents back to work sooner.”

Finally, Kandola said full implementation of a program to monitor wastewater in the NWT for Covid-19 is expected soon.

“[This] will continuously test the Covid-19 in about 50 percent of the NWT population without ever needing to do a single swab,” she said.

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