Anger, confusion as most British Columbians now don't qualify for COVID-19 testing
For the majority of the pandemic, the provincial health officer has advised British Columbians to get tested if they have COVID-19 symptoms. That message changed dramatically on Friday.
With COVID-19 now being treated more like other respiratory illnesses, most people don’t qualify for government-funded rapid antigen or PCR testing.
Rivka Ziskrout’s 12-year-old son, who has COVID-19 symptoms, received an at-home rapid test kit at the drive-thru testing site in North Vancouver on Wednesday, and was told to come back for another test 48 hours later. But by Friday, the criteria for who qualified for a test had changed, and he was turned away despite being symptomatic.
“He was provided a little handout that says who can get tested,” said Ziskrout.
Only the unvaccinated, the immunocompromised, and people who live or work in certain high-risk settings are eligible for PCR or rapid testing. Everyone else doesn’t qualify anymore, regardless of symptoms, and that includes most seniors and children.
“He was sent home. We don’t know. He still has symptoms,” said Ziskrout of her son.
“So now, as parents, we are left to speculate whether or not it is COVID, treat him as best we can and it raises a lot of concerns and a lot of anxiety.”
The rule change for testing eligibility came three days after Surrey opened its first dedicated rapid test kit distribution centre at Bear Creek Park. It has capacity to hand out 750 test kits per day, but now very few people qualify to book an appointment there.
“It’s been ripped away from us before it even started,” said Surrey Board of Trade president Anita Huberman. “The Bear Creek rapid test site just opened, and it was a way to keep each other safe. You know, when you have symptoms, you want to make sure what’s happening, whether or not you can go to work.”
While Dr. Bonnie Henry argues most symptomatic British Columbians don’t need COVID-19 tests because they should be staying home regardless and contact tracing has stopped, Huberman believes people have a right to know, and a right to access publicly funded testing.
“We want to know what’s happening with our body as an individual,” she said. “And if you’re an employer, you want to be able to indicate what type of action or interaction on the floor (is OK) if you’re a manufacturing facility (and) someone has COVID. Information is key to ensure productive, safe workplaces.”
“We need that information and now we can’t have that at all,” she said.
Because she’s pregnant, she is isolating from her symptomatic, 12-year-old son.
“We don’t want to affect the baby, and now I don’t know, are we going overboard on that? Maybe nothing would have happened. Maybe it’s not COVID so it would have been fine,” she said. “It definitely would be nice to know.”
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