Coronavirus Canada Updates: Winnipeg teachers to get rapid COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus Canada Updates: Manitoba reports 198 new COVID-19 cases, with more than half in the north
Coronavirus Canada Updates: Manitoba reports 198 new COVID-19 cases, with more than half in the north

Manitoba is expanding its rapid COVID-19 testing to teachers in Winnipeg.

The rapid testing pilot will begin in January to coincide with the post-holiday return to school, Premier Brian Pallister announced on Thursday.

Those tests will be part of a broader expansion of rapid testing throughout the province, he said.

The province has sent in a $40-million order for Songbird Hyris tests, which will help deliver 45,000 tests a month.

That will provide the ability to test each teacher and educational support staff member in Winnipeg twice a month for the rest of the school year, Pallister said.

No testing, however, will be given to students; the tests are not designed for children, he said.

If they feel ill or have any coronavirus symptoms they must stay home, as has been the order since March. If teachers feel ill, on the other hand, they need to be tested and cleared as soon as possible to get back to teaching kids, Pallister said.

More details about the rapid testing program, as well as plans to expand it outside Winnipeg, will be announced in the near future, Palister said.

The province is also deploying another 20 Abbott ID NOW tests to communities across the province, in addition to the 13 testing units announced a month ago.

The latest devices are destined for:

Southern Health Region: Steinbach (two units), Boundary Trails (two), Portage la Prairie (two) and Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes (one).

Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority: Selkirk (two), Stonewall (one), Pine Falls (one), Gimli (one) and Ashern (one).

Prairie Mountain Health: Dauphin (two), Neepawa (one), Virden (one), Killarney (one) and Russell (one).
Northern Regional Health Authority: Thompson/The Pas (one)

Province gets vaccine-ready

Manitoba has also made “significant progress” toward launching a co-ordinated vaccination campaign when a vaccine is ready, Pallister said.

“Our team of hundreds of dedicated Manitobans has been planning and preparing for months for a vaccination campaign that will be unlike anything else this province has ever seen,” he said.

“We are assembling the necessary people, equipment and other resources so we can rapidly stand up a large-scale, super-site vaccine campaign, as soon as the vaccine is delivered.”

Manitoba has secured all necessary supplies to administer two doses of the vaccine to every resident, including a sufficient supply of needles, syringes and personal protective equipment for staff administering vaccinations, he said.

The first freezer able to safely store one of the COVID-19 vaccines at extremely low temperatures has been delivered and installed, with another four on the way, Pallister said. Together they can hold about one million doses of vaccine.

The province has purchased 20 portable ultra-cold freezers so that, as the vaccine supply from the federal government expands over the coming months, it can be stored and be widely available at numerous sites.

Ultimately, it will be offered in a way that is similar to a conventional vaccination campaign, such as the annual flu shot, a news release from the province says.

Vaccines won’t be mandatory but the province will appeal to everyone’s common sense to get it, Palister said.

“Over time, the vaccine will be available to every Manitoban who wants it and this will help to protect all of us against COVID-19,” he said.

“In the meantime, we must continue to follow the public health advice of our public health experts, focus on the fundamentals and stay home.”

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