Health Canada is willing to consider approving home COVID-19 tests to screen for the virus, a spokesperson for the minister of health told Reuters, in a win for public health experts and doctors who have argued that frequent and inexpensive testing could beat back the pandemic.
The health ministry had previously said it was concerned that people might misuse home tests or misinterpret the results.
“In response to the evolution of the pandemic, Health Canada is now considering applications for home testing devices for screening purposes,” said Cole Davidson, spokesperson for the minister of health said in a statement.
In June of this year, Health Canada had indicated that it would not review applications for home test kits, as at that time, “the Department’s position was in relation to the use of home tests for diagnostic purposes,” the statement said.
Screening tests are meant to monitor large groups of seemingly healthy people for illness, while diagnostic tests investigate symptoms.
The change could allow for self collection, where samples are sent to a lab for processing, and spur the development of new tests to detect the virus at home.
Njoo says there ‘might be a place’ for home tests
Home tests may be more likely to miss positive cases than the laboratory tests. Regulators generally want those errors to be very rare, since patients who do not realize they are contagious could spread the virus.
But advocates argue that cheap, rapid tests could more than make up for any reduced sensitivity if they can be used to test many people daily or weekly, and are very unlikely to miss people who are sick enough to be contagious.
Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer, said PCR testing (also known as polymerase chain reaction testing) remains the gold standard. That’s the nose or throat swab test which, after laboratory analysis, tells health officials if someone currently has COVID-19.
“It’s very important to critically get the result right. For example, a sick person in intensive care in the hospital or, for example, someone who is symptomatic in a long term care facility — you want to use the PCR,” he said during a briefing in Ottawa Tuesday.
“Where I think there might be a place for other types of testing modalities, other technologies, is where certain types of testing might be done — for example, screening on a regular basis in workplaces or other contexts.”
Rapid COVID-19 tests similar to home pregnancy tests exist as prototypes in research labs, but until last week none were approved or manufactured at scale.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a $5 rapid COVID-19 test about the size of a credit card, made by Abbott Laboratories. The test cannot be taken alone, but it can be administered by a wide variety of health-care providers and technicians.
Abbott has not applied to sell the device in Canada, public application data shows.
Canada adds 1,796 new coronavirus cases, highest total yet for second wave – Global News
The country has now seen a total of 158,592 COVID-19 infections to date. Of those, 134,971 patients have since recovered — 1,234 of them over the past 24 hours, according to provincial health officials.
Six more deaths were also reported Wednesday, bringing the national death toll to 9,297.
Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned the country last week that the four biggest provinces have entered a second wave, cases have only escalated.
Ontario and Quebec, in particular, have returned to levels seen during the pandemic’s peak in April, with Ontario surpassing those record daily totals this week. British Columbia has also surpassed its springtime peak, although the number of active cases has started to trend slightly downward again.
Ontario, which reported 625 new cases and four new deaths Wednesday, released new modelling the same day projecting the province could see up to 1,000 cases a day in October unless people adhere to stricter measures.
The province has seen a total of 51,710 cases and 2,848 deaths to date, while 43,907 patients have recovered.
Quebec reported 838 new infections, one of its highest daily counts ever, and one additional death that occurred last week. The province continues to lead the country in cases, at 74,288, and deaths, which have hit 5,834. A total of 62,564 people have recovered.
Montreal, Quebec City and parts of the Chaudière-Appalaches region of Quebec are going into “red zone” partial lockdowns at midnight Thursday, meaning bars, restaurants and other public spaces will be closed for 28 days in an effort to drive down infections.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador each reported one new case, while New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island had no new cases to report.
Nova Scotia has now seen a total of 1,088 cases and 65 deaths to date, while Newfoundland and Labrador has reported 274 cases and three deaths. New Brunswick, which has seen two deaths, and P.E.I. are sitting at 200 and 59 cases, respectively.
Nearly all of those Atlantic cases have recovered, leaving just 12 active cases across four provinces.
Coronavirus: Quebec Premier Legault introduces new restrictions for people in ‘red zones’
In Manitoba, 40 new cases were reported, bringing its total to 1,993. Twenty people have died in the province to date, while 1,374 have recovered.
Saskatchewan saw 14 new cases Wednesday. A total of 1,913 cases and 24 deaths have been recorded since March, with 1,750 recoveries.
Further west, Alberta reported 153 new cases and one more death, taking the province’s totals to 18,062 infections and 267 fatalities. To date, 16,213 patients have recovered.
In British Columbia, officials announced 124 lab-confirmed cases and an additional “epidemiologically linked” case, meaning it has not been confirmed by laboratory testing.
The province has now seen 8,972 confirmed cases and 166 epi-linked cases, along with 234 deaths and 7,591 recoveries.
None of the three territories reported cases Wednesday.
Coronavirus: Latest modelling suggests Ontario could see around 1,000 COVID-19 cases a day in October, officials say
The Yukon has seen 15 cases and the Northwest Territories has a total of five, yet all of those recovered months ago. The Northwest Territories is approaching six full months without reporting a new case.
While Nunavut remains the only jurisdiction without any local confirmed cases of COVID-19, the territory has not fully escaped the virus. Three confirmed cases and seven presumptive cases have been reported among workers at local mines who are based out of province, with health officials considering them part of their home provinces’ numbers.
As provinces wrestle with additional measures and restrictions to try and contain the spread of the virus, the federal government is attempting to provide support through testing and contact tracing.
Under fire for not answering the call for rapid test expansion sooner, Health Canada on Wednesday approved a rapid coronavirus test that can detect the respiratory illness in as few as 13 minutes.
The news comes one day after Ottawa announced it had signed a deal securing up to 7.9 million Abbott ID Now COVID-19 rapid tests once they were approved by Canadian health officials.
When the tests will be in the hands of health professionals — and how they will be distributed — is not yet known.
Global cases approach 34 million
Worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic is showing few signs that is slowing its spread, recording hundreds of thousands of new cases daily.
Globally, over 33.8 million cases and more than 1.01 million deaths have been reported in nearly 190 countries since the virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, over nine months ago, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Canadians fear impact of second wave of COVID-19
The United States continues to lead the world in cases, with over 7.2 million, while its death toll also leads the world with nearly 207,000.
India, which has seen over 6.2 million cases and nearly 97,500 deaths, and Brazil’s 4.7 million cases and 142,900 deaths, round out the top three hardest-hit countries on the planet.
The World Health Organization has said it’s “not impossible” to see another million deaths from the virus by the time an effective, readily available vaccine is introduced, which experts have said may not happen until next year.
— With files from Global’s Emerald Bensadoun
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Health Canada approves rapid COVID testing device as Canada braces for caseload spikes – CBC.ca
Health Canada regulators today approved the ID NOW rapid COVID-19 testing device for use in this country — a move that could result in millions more tests for communities grappling with a surge in coronavirus cases.
The Abbott Laboratories-backed point-of-care devices can be administered by trained professionals at places like pharmacies, walk-in clinics and doctors’ offices without the need for a laboratory to determine if someone is infected with the virus.
The approval comes only a day after the federal government announced that it would buy some 7.9 million ID NOW tests from the U.S.-based firm for distribution in Canada.
A nasal or throat specimen is collected from a patient on a swab and plugged into the ID NOW’s analyzer, which can detect the presence of the virus. The molecular devices can produce COVID results in 15 minutes.
To date, the vast majority of tests have been done at public health clinics, with samples then sent to laboratories for analysis — a process that can take days.
Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Tuesday that the purchase was designed to help the provinces and territories offer more testing options as some cities face hours-long lines at public health testing centres.
Speaking in question period today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is expecting to receive the first batch of these Abbott tests “in the coming weeks.”
Abbott has already shipped more than seven million ID NOW tests to all 50 U.S. states, Washington D.C. and the U.S. territories.
Trudeau said the government has earmarked more money for Health Canada to expedite the approvals process for “new technologies” like these diagnostic devices.
Health experts and the opposition Conservatives have said Health Canada’s regulatory process has been too slow to this point. Other Western nations have had such tests for months.
WATCH: Conservatives call on Trudeau to approve more rapid tests
Trudeau said his government put “science first” to protect Canadians from faulty devices. He said regulators were not pressured to approve the device after the multi-million dollar order for Abbott’s test.
The United States Food and Drug Administration first issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) to Abbott for the ID NOW device at the end of March — just one of 248 such authorizations the U.S. has issued for testing devices since the onset of the pandemic. Only three point-of-care tests have been authorized for use in Canada.
Some researchers have said this Abbott device has led to false positives in a small number of cases. The FDA re-issued a revised EUA on Sept. 18, saying that the test should be administered within the first seven days of the onset of symptoms.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford praised Abbott as a group of “incredible folks.”
The premier also said he’s eager to see Health Canada approve another form of testing that could be used outside of health care settings: antigen devices which — like the ID NOW device — can produce COVID results in minutes.
The regulator hasn’t yet approved any antigen tests. In fact, Health Canada only posted guidance for antigen device manufacturers to its website yesterday, seven months into the pandemic.
Ford said he wants to send antigen tests to high-risk places — such as some workplaces and schools — to identify positive cases early enough to avoid further spread.
“I think it’s an absolute game-changer for the education system, for long-term care. It’s absolutely critical. My frustration is, how can regulatory authorities in countries around the world approve this? How can the U.S. regulatory bodies approve this, and everyone’s getting it, and it’s taking this long to go through Health Canada?” Ford said.
“People can know in 15 minutes. Imagine that. Think about going to a pharmacy, getting the test, waiting outside, and coming back in in 15 minutes and you have your results. Why it’s taking so long is just beyond me.
“I’m sorry, I don’t want to always pick on Health Canada but they’ve got to move faster, quicker, please. We’re in a crisis.”
Ford said he was told Health Canada is reluctant to approve rapid testing devices after the botched approval of the Spartan Bioscience testing product early in the pandemic.
The device was found to be faulty after it was subjected to efficacy testing at the National Microbiology Laboratory. Health Canada had to issue a recall on the device in May after the federal government already had placed an order for 40,000 tests.
Antigen tests — which, depending on the device, use matter collected from a nasal or throat swab — don’t require the use of a lab to generate results.
While much faster, these tests are considered by some to be less accurate than the “gold standard” — the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing process currently in use across Canada.
Antigen testing devices like Quidel Corporation’s Sofia 2 SARS, which received emergency authorization from the U.S. FDA in May, can produce results in less than 20 minutes.
As of Tuesday, Quidel’s device was still listed as “under review” by Health Canada.
Antigen tests have been used in thousands of U.S. long-term care homes for months.
Canada's GDP grew by 3% in July as more sectors reopened – CBC.ca
Canada’s economy continued its recovery in July from the first wave of COVID-19, with the country’s gross domestic product expanding by three per cent.
Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that all 20 sectors of the economy grew as businesses continued to reopen and tried to get back to some sense of normal after lockdowns in March and April.
Output in agriculture, utilities, finance and insurance businesses, as well as real estate rental and leasing companies, clawed back to where it was before the pandemic struck. Retail trade businesses accomplished the same feat the month before, in June. But despite July’s growth, all other types of businesses still have yet to get back to their previous highs.
The biggest expansions in the month were in hotels/restaurants (up 20.1) and arts/entertainment/recreation (up 14 per cent), but those figures come off a very low base and are still facing the deepest slump versus year-ago levels, Bank of Montreal economist Benjamin Reitzes said of the numbers.
All in all, GDP was six per cent below February’s level, Statistics Canada said.
The three per cent gain was in line with what economists had been expecting. It was about half as much as the 6.5 per cent increase seen in June.
While StatsCan is still calculating the final numbers, its early projection for August shows an expansion of just one per cent, which suggests that Canada’s economic recovery is running out of steam as it appears a second wave of the virus is hitting some parts of the country.
TD Bank economist Sri Thanabalasingam said based on the July numbers, those fears are well founded.
“Slowing and uneven growth are indications that the Canadian economy is transitioning from the rebound phase to a more challenging stage of the recovery,” he said.
“Even without restrictions, consumers and businesses may rein in spending activity in response to rising caseloads. The second wave is now upon us, and the course of the recovery will depend on our success in containing it.”
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