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B.C. to deploy rapid COVID-19 tests for school staff when they arrive

Expansion to students with symptoms depends on supply: Henry
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside speak about COVID-19 measures in B.C. schools at the Vancouver cabinet offices, Dec. 29, 2021. (B.C. government photo)

B.C. health officials expect to start receiving more rapid tests for COVID-19 from Health Canada next week, and a key priority is to test school staff with symptoms after full school operation resumes on Jan. 10.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday the self-administered rapid tests that are expected to start arriving by next week can be used for students who have symptoms that may be COVID-19, to help parents decide when they should stay home for five days.

Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said delaying the full return to K-12 schools by a week has allowed school districts to prepare for the fast-spreading Omicron variant, including providing additional supplies of three-layer disposable masks that have been in use through the pandemic. At-home learning will likely be needed for some students, and staggered break times and other measures will be in effect, Whiteside said.

Students and parents should perform a daily health check before going to school and send a three-layer mask with their children if they are able to, Whiteside said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province currently has 577,000 rapid tests that can be self-administered. Those are being used for remote and Indigenous communities, tracing infection clusters, screening health care workers with symptoms and at COVID-19 testing centres to supplement the more accurate molecular tests, he said.

Another 600,000 rapid tests are expected to arrive from the the federal government by next week, and testing health care workers to keep more people on the job will continue to be a priority.

“We are very pleased that the federal government has made this effort, but they are not here yet,” Dix said.

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