Screening Tests: the canadian provinces follow different paths

Tests de dépistage: les provinces canadiennes suivent des chemins différents

Tests de dépistage: les provinces canadiennes suivent des chemins différents

The government of Quebec has recently announced that it would increase massively the tests, promising to produce 14 000 to 15 000 per day to a period where companies and schools will re-open gradually.


May 11, 2020 7h44

Updated at 21h46


Screening Tests: the canadian provinces follow different paths

The canadian Press

VANCOUVER — The provinces most severely affected by the COVID-19 increase their ability to perform the tests at the time they plan to reopen their economies.

According to experts in infectious diseases, the pandemic will not be eliminated if the authorities do not carry out more tests, if they do not seek diligently the contacts of persons with and if they have no more use of quarantine.

The canadian Press conducted an analysis of data relating to the tests carried out in some provinces over a period of six weeks beginning at the end of the month of march.

The provinces are grappling with the highest number of cases — the Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Alberta have adopted different strategies to determine who should undergo a test and when.

These decisions were in part influenced by the capacity of their laboratories, as well as by the resources they had in place to carry out these tests.

Dr. Peter Phillips, a professor in the department of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, argues that the rationing of the tests became less important as the capacity increased.

According to him, now that the restrictions in the field of public health were relaxed, the provinces and territories must maintain criteria which are less extended in order to detect and isolate cases of COVID-19.

Here’s how some of the provinces hardest hit have handled this situation.


In Quebec, the authorities have accused some delay on the rest of the country to the chapter test, even if the province is found in the heart of the pandemic.

According to Nimâ Machouf, an epidemiologist and professor at the School of public health, University of Montreal, a large part of the data on the tests in Quebec reflects the shortage of materials in the province to pass tests.

As a result, she says, Quebec has kept its test criteria narrow, concentrating on those segments of the population where there were probably more positive.

Ms. Machouf believes that the actual rate of spread community in Quebec is probably much higher than shown by the tests.

The government of Quebec has recently announced that it would increase massively the tests, promising to produce 14 000 to 15 000 per day to a period where companies and schools will re-open gradually.

Ms. Machouf hope that it is not only those with symptoms will be tests, but also their contacts. It also hopes that the tests are carried out in a random way to determine the number of asymptomatic cases in the population.


The most populous province of Canada was initially lagging behind the rest of the country in respect of the screening tests.

The ontario government has been criticized for its low rate of testing per capita.

It has the second largest number of cases in the country, behind Quebec.

At the beginning of the crisis, Ontario did not have enough assessment centres, and then, he lacked the ability of laboratory to process the tests, and he lacked the chemicals needed for testing.

The delay amounted to 11 000 tests, but the province has managed to erase it. In early April, Ontario was less than 4000 tests per day, although it could carry 13 000.

The ministry of Health says that new guidelines were given in order to lower the standards in order to be able to test more people.

Dr. Camille Lemieux, chief of family medicine at the University Health Network in Toronto, believes it is important to have accurate figures at a time when authorities are seeking to revive the economic activities in the province.

It is our wish that the province conducts more tests and on a greater number of health care workers, whether they have or do not have symptoms.

According to Dr. Lemieux, each person who wishes should be able to be tested, even if it has no or few symptoms. Random testing should also be conducted.

Nova Scotia

Dr. Todd Hatchette argues that a dynamic strategy was able to mitigate the epidemic of the COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.

Head of the department of microbiology of the public Health Nova Scotia, Dr. Hatchette request that all contacts of a person with the COVID-19 to be tested on their turn, whether they are symptomatic or not.

Nova Scotia has recently received equipment that will enable him to fulfill on a daily basis from 2500 to 3000 tests. Authorities say, however, that its capabilities are greater than this number since the flu season is over. There are fewer people who present with symptoms related to the COVID-19.

From 21 march to 3 April, a little over 7,000 tests were carried out in Nova Scotia. This number was increased to nearly 11 000 from 4 to 17 April.

Over the last two weeks of April, the number of tests has dropped to 9700

In terms of the ratio test/capita, the province is ranked third in the country behind the northwest Territories and Alberta.

Dr. Hatchette stated that most of the tests can be concentrated in a single laboratory due to the low population of the province. According to him, it is an advantage compared to the provinces most populous.

British Columbia

Although the management of the epidemic in British Columbia has generated praise, the number of tests performed in the province has always been lower than that of the other four provinces the most affected in the country.

The ministry of Health says that the laboratories have the capacity to carry approximately 65 000 tests per day, and that the collection locations are well-stocked.

But last week, the daily tests carried out ranged from about 18 000 to 28 000.

D Bonnie Henry, physician-in-chief-officer of health for the province, said that there is no specific number of tests to be carried out each day, but it is important to test the right people.

According to Dr. Peter Phillips, there is more evidence that people who came in contact with a case, whether they are related to an outbreak data, should be tested even if they have no symptoms.

British Columbia is planning to intensify the tests before the fall when there will be more people with respiratory disease, such as influenza.


Alberta boasts of having one of the abilities of test-the highest in the world.

The province wants to increase the number of tests, an essential element of its economic recovery strategy.

The minister of Health, Tyler Shandro, has announced that the decision to open businesses and to resume the activities requires that the province has the most accurate information and detail as possible.

Dr. Ameeta Singh, an infectious disease specialist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, says that health-care systems and laboratory centralized the province may be one of the reasons of its high rate of testing.

Alberta can make up to 7000 per day, but his recent average is less than 4000.

The province is ambitious since it aims to increase its daily capacity to 16,000 by June.

The chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, says that the province has no intention of maximize his constant ability to test, but aims to slow down the system in case of surge potential.

She said that unless tests are performed because the transmission rates are lower when the population is in containment.

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