In lieu of an in-person update to the media, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, issued the following statement today:
“There have been 171,323 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,530 deaths. Over the past week, labs across Canada have tested an average of over 71,000 people daily, with 2.5% testing positive. National daily case counts continue to increase steeply, with an average of 2,052 new cases being reported daily during the most recent 7 days. This represents an increase of 40% from the previous week. At the same time, we are monitoring carefully an upward trend in the number of individuals with COVID-19 requiring hospital care. Over the past week, there have been an average of 644 COVID-19 cases in hospital on any given day and 18 deaths reported daily.
One important part of slowing the spread of COVID-19 is testing which helps to rapidly identify cases. This ensures cases can be isolated and cared for appropriately, and their close contacts reached as soon as possible. With elevated case numbers in a variety of regions across Canada, test and trace strategies need to be customized in order to address the local situation.
Currently approved testing methods include those which diagnose an active infection, such as molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. These tests take nasal or throat swab samples and evaluate them in the laboratory. This method can be quite sensitive and provides results in about one to three days.
Rapid antigen testing is another type of diagnostic test, which can be done at a point-of-care, such as a pharmacy or doctor’s office, without the need of a laboratory. It still requires a nasal or throat swab, but can provide results in as little as 15 minutes. The antigen tests are not as sensitive as PCR laboratory tests, but are accurate in the early stages of infection when you are symptomatic and the viral load is higher. These can be helpful in regularly testing individuals in certain settings like remote work sites or crowded facilities as well as in outbreak settings to quickly identify those who have been exposed to ensure rapid public health action.
All tests currently available in Canada must be performed by a health care professional. At this time, there are no at-home test kits authorized for sale in Canada.
If you have symptoms, even mild ones, stay home, self-isolate and contact your local health authority for advice on getting tested. If testing is recommended, it is important you stay home while you await your test results. Consult your local provincial and territorial resources.
While testing is a crucial tool in our toolbox, it is does not and cannot replace vigilant public health prevention measures. We must continue to consistently practice physical distancing measures; keeping two metres away from others, frequent hand washing, wearing a mask when physical distancing can’t be ensured. These are the measures that have proven to be effective, and will continue to help us, and prevent further escalation of the pandemic in Canada.”