Health Canada approves new rapid COVID testing kits

Health Canada has recently approved a new rapid test kit for COVID-19 that is said to be able to produce results in less than an hour. The new test kit is expected to help alleviate the pressure on public health laboratories and help prevent testing kit shortages. 

This past weekend Spartan Bioscience, an Ottawa-based company, received approval from Health Canada to produce these testing kits. Doctor Paul Lem, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, announced that the company will be ready to begin shipping testing kits for both the federal and provincial governments as early as Monday. 

Announced in previous daily addresses by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Spartan Bioscience was contracted by the federal government to produce rapid COVID-19 test kits which were to be shipped to Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta. 

Dr. Lem has said that other provinces are also working on creating arrangements with the company but they have yet to be officially announced. 

The announcement of the new test kits could not have come at a better time as the Premier of Ontario Doug Ford and the Health Minister Christine Elliott announced earlier last week their strategy to increase the amount of daily COVID-19 testing to 8,000 per day by April 15 and nearly double to 16,000 by May 6. 

Until recently, all COVID-19 tests have been processed through very large and expensive medical machines called polymerase chain reaction machines (PCR machines), said Dr. Lem. However, the new testing kit by Spartan Bioscience will produce results through a much smaller handheld DNA analyzer. This will allow hospitals and other institutions to test patients and receive results without having to send samples to another provincial laboratory. 

This will be particularly important for rural and remote areas, as well as Indigenous communities, which don’t have access to large PCR machines. They’ll be able to get results much faster and expedite their response to new COVID-19 cases, Dr. Lem said.

Each handheld DNA analyzer can process about 10 to 15 tests a day, Dr. Lem said, adding that the company will start shipping thousands of tests this week. In about a month, they will be able to ship 10,000 tests a week. In three to four months, they expect to move up to 200,000 tests each week.

The company also produces swabs that need to be used to collect samples from patients. This is an advantage to the Spartan tests as global swab supply is among the shortages that have prevented scaling up of COVID-19 testing across the country.

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