O'Toole pushes for rapid COVID-19 testing after family experiences long wait

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says the federal government is causing a COVID-19 disaster by not moving more quickly to approve rapid testing methods that are already in use in other countries.

O'Toole and his family were tested Thursday for COVID-19 through a program for MPs, after waiting for several hours to be tested in Ottawa Wednesday and having to give up.

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He slammed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for failing to improve testing.

"The Trudeau Liberals have created this mess by refusing to approve other testing methods — despite all our allies having, for months, multiple tests including much faster and less invasive methods," said O'Toole in a written statement.

"I stand with the thousands of Canadian families who are waiting in lines today for tests. It has been seven months, Justin Trudeau must answer for why we do not have access to more of the tests our allies are using."

O'Toole, his wife Rebecca and their children Mollie and Jack are all in isolation after an O'Toole staff member he was travelling with tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

Demand for COVID-19 testing has skyrocketed this week as kids returned to school. In Ottawa, some people are waiting up to six hours for testing, if they can get in at all. Public health is scrambling to hire and train enough people to expand testing sites, and Ottawa did add four hours to the daily schedule of one main testing site Thursday.

Ontario Heritage Minister Lisa McLeod, who represents an Ottawa riding at Queen's Park, also said on Twitter the province was helping to open three pop-up testing sites in the nation's capital later this week.

The United States has approved two rapid tests that can deliver results as fast as 15 minutes after a swab is taken. They are faster and cheaper than the current tests Canada uses, known as PCR testing. They can take up to 24 hours to deliver a result, which has to be done in a lab.

Antigen tests, which are used for a number of other viruses like strep throat or the flu, can be analyzed right at the site a test is taken. They could therefore be deployed to schools, long-term care homes, or other high-risk environments where rapid results are extremely helpful.

However they are also not always as accurate as PCR tests, which are considered the gold standard for detecting the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Wednesday that Ottawa is reviewing applications for rapid testing devices but will not approve them until they meet Canada's standards for accuracy.

"The holdup is the technology has not accelerated to the point where we have received a test for approval that has an accuracy to the degree that we believe it is prudent to allow it into the Canadian market," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 17, 2020.

© Virden Empire-Advance

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