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COVID-19 testing still important for unvaccinated, elderly: provincial health officer

Rapid antigen tests for those five and older remain available for free at many pharmacies
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COVID 19 antigen test kits at a Yates Street drugstore last fall. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Four years after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, testing for the virus remains important for those at risk of severe disease — those who are unvaccinated, pregnant, immune-compromised or elderly, says the office of the provincial health officer.

It says rapid antigen tests for those five and older remain available for free at many community pharmacies.

It can take three to seven days after infection for there to be enough antigens to be detected by the test. Participating pharmacies can be found at bcpharmacy.ca/news/covid-19-rapid-test-kits-pharmacies, though finding those with a current supply can be hit and miss.

Health Canada extended the shelf life of Artron’s COVID-19 antigen test to six months past the expiration date shown on the package. The extension applies to all lot numbers of Artron rapid tests.

Health Canada extended the shelf life of Abbott Panbio Nasal COVID-19 Rapid Test Device to 24 months from the date of manufacture on the package.

Since March 11, 2020, when the World Health Organization officially declared the global pandemic, 58,475 Canadians have died due to COVID-19, including 6,600 in British Columbia.

Since early February, COVID‑19 hospital admissions, critical-care admissions, and deaths have remained relatively stable, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. On March 7, there were 155 people in hospital with COVID-19 in B.C., including 14 in critical care. Between Feb. 25 and March 2, nine deaths were reported.

Premier David Eby said B.C. continues to have the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in Canada. In the fall, Island Health had the highest rates of all health authorities for COVID vaccinations among those age 65 and older.

Regardless of whether they test positive for COVID-19, the provincial health office advises anyone with symptoms of respiratory illness to stay home and avoid close contact with others until they feel well enough to participate in regular day-to-day activities. Other contagious respiratory infections circulating include RSV and influenza.

For immunocompromised and clinically extremely vulnerable adults — including people 70 years and older, unvaccinated or chronically ill — there are two prescribed therapeutic treatments for COVID-19.

Paxlovid is a course of antiviral pills that can be taken at home, while Remdesivir must be given through a vein in a clinic or hospital, and can prove effective if given within seven days of symptoms.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said as the province remembers the toll of COVID-19, it also ­recognizes “the imperative to fortify our health-care infrastructure against future threats.”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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