Rapid COVID-19 testing units start trickling into health unit

Local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The Eastern Ontario Health Unit says it’s just starting to receive COVID-19 nasal rapid testing options.

That’s despite schools being back in class a couple of weeks with a promise from the Ontario government there would be access to targeted asymptomatic testing, including lab-processed PCR and rapid antigen tests.

“We have just started to receive them (rapid tests) right now. We haven’t received them before,” Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis told Cornwall Newswatch Thursday.

“We have, however, four rapid ID NOWs and we are starting to use those and we have a protocol in place,” Roumeliotis said. The ID NOW test can be done by throat, as well as nasal and nasal pharyngeal.

He says they haven’t been using the Panbio rapid antigen test a lot as its “very unpleasant” and “very unpalatable” to do three days a week in long-term care homes, using a nasal pharyngeal swab on an elderly person.

The small number of units the EOHU has received appears to corroborate a report by CBC News that shows, despite its insistence for rapid testing kits, Ontario has only rolled out 18 per cent of the kits its received from the federal government.

Roumeliotis says any testing kits the health unit has received are being used and more testing will ramp up.

“We are going to ramp up with that. We’re going to ramp up with the Panbio and we’re also putting protocols in place to do the rapid testing as needed for school settings, outbreak settings and so on. We’re just getting started with that,” the doctor said.

He says the Panbio antigen testing units went directly to long-term care homes and not through the health unit.