Demand grows in New Brunswick for more rapid testing

Rapid testing kits for COVID-19 are expanding into New Brunswick’s education system as demand grows for availability amongst the general public.

The provincial government and local chambers of commerce have been distributing rapid-testing kits to businesses big and small since the beginning of summer.

“Just since we’ve started, we’ve had well over 450 companies that are actually participating in the program,” says David Duplisea, CEO of the Greater Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve distributed close to 30,000 tests just in the last couple of weeks and that number is increasing regularly.”

The number of people dropping by to ask for a kit of their own has been increasing too, says Duplisea.

“We have had to say no to people that are looking for kits for personal distribution. This program itself is for a small to medium sized business.”

“If you’re a larger business, over 300 employees, then you can go directly to the (provincial) government. Currently in the province there are no self-testing kits available for the general public.”

The provincial government has been using rapid-testing kits among civil servants who aren’t fully vaccinated. The Canadian Red Cross has been distributing the kits to not-for-profit and charity organizations around the province. Premier Blaine Higgs says schools will soon be included in the program.

“We are looking at a testing policy for schools, and in the education system, and using rapid testing. And that will be brought forward by the department of education in the coming days or week,” said Higgs in a news conference on Wednesday.

The provincial government had no further details about the testing policy when asked Friday.

The Nova Scotia government announced Wednesday children in pre-primary to Grade 6 would be sent home with free rapid testing kits for their own family’s use.

Nova Scotia has been a leader in using rapid testing kits during the pandemic, while other Canadian jurisdictions have been more frugal.

With record breaking daily COVID-19 numbers being reported in New Brunswick this week, wait times for getting a test and results have grown longer.

Rev. Mike Caines, an Anglican Priest in Grand Bay-Westfield, has been using rapid test kits (distributed by the local Chamber of Commerce) for an unvaccinated employee. He would like to see the program become available to more people.

“If that’s possible to do that would be great. We’re getting there as far as having the population vaccinated, but there’s still this gap, and that gap is creating some tension and issues. So if this is possible for mass distribution that would be amazing.”