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Feds reach deal to buy millions of rapid COVID-19 test kits as new standards set

Last Updated Sep 29, 2020 at 10:31 am PDT

FILE - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the media before the first day of a Liberal cabinet retreat in Ottawa, Monday September 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Summary

The federal government reached a deal to buy millions of rapid test kits on Tuesday

The Health Canada guidance comes as a second wave of the coronavirus spreads across the country

Health Canada said there needs to be a minimum 80 per cent accuracy rate for those tests

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — The federal government reached a deal to buy millions of rapid test kits on Tuesday, when Health Canada posted new minimum standards for them.

The Health Canada guidance comes as a second wave of the coronavirus spreads across the country, leading to long lines and waits, as well as a backlog of test results.

At the moment, Health Canada is still reviewing six applications for possible rapid antigen test kits for use in Canada, but none have been approved so far.

Health Canada said there needs to be a minimum 80 per cent accuracy rate for those tests.

Rapid testing from antigen test kits is different from the current methods being used and could produce results within less than an hour rather than one to three days. But they tend to be less accurate, giving false negatives, which could make the COVID-19 pandemic worse.

Health officials also said through the approval process they’ve been having trouble getting the appropriate clinical data from the companies behind the submissions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday the federal government will not interfere with the approval process.

“We’re not going to tell our scientists how to do their job and do that work,” he added.

READ ALSO: Portable COVID-19 test approved for human use in Canada, claims to provide results ‘in minutes’

Trudeau also announced the federal government has reached an advanced deal with buy 7.9-million rapid test kits. The purchase is subject to the test kits receiving Health Canada approval.

The rapid test deal is with Abbott Rapid Diagnostics. The tests are not antigen tests, but still need Health Canada approval.

Along with the testing kits, the government is purchasing up to 3,800 analyzers, the devices that perform the test and deliver rapid results.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the federal government will distribute the rapid test kits to provinces and territories, with high-risk and remote settings being the priority.

Trudeau also said the government is working on a procurement process, so when there is an approval, it can quickly and buy test kits.

Health Canada has not received any submissions yet for home testing kits.

According to Health Minister Patty Hajdu, the federal government is in talks with companies that produce those devices, asking them to apply for approval in Canada.