Most children in British Columbia can say goodbye to those icky swabs and uncomfortable Covid-19 tests as the Canadian province launches a new gargle method for students ages 4 to 19.
“It is one of the first of its kind around the world,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, at a press conference Thursday.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says the new test is just as accurate as tests using a nasal swab and is much easier to administer for children.
The announcement comes at a time when testing is in high demand: Canada has seen a doubling of new daily cases in the last month. And while experts are still looking into the role children play in Covid-19 transmission, a recent report suggests they can – and do – spread the virus, even when they have mild or no symptoms.
“This is a new saline gargle where you put a little bit of normal saline, so sterile water, in your mouth and you swish it around a little bit and you spit it into a little tube and that’s an easier way to collect it for young people,” said Dr. Henry.
B.C. public health officials say they compared test results in both children and adults and found the rate of Covid-19 detection was very similar between the nasal swab and the new gargle test.
B.C. is prioritizing children for the new test but hopes to expand to adults in the coming weeks.
While the sample will still have to be taken to a lab for processing the test does not have to be administered by a healthcare professional.
Test comes as numbers edge upward
The country’s seven-day average for new Covid-19 cases edged upward to 849 Friday, and public health officials said Canadians under the age of 40 are fueling the surge in cases. It’s a 123% increase from a month ago, when the seven-day average stood at 380.
“The ongoing increase in the national daily case counts is an indicator of accelerated epidemic growth,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said during a news conference Friday. “This situation increases the likelihood that we lose the ability to keep Covid-19 at manageable levels.”
Canada’s positivity rate remains at 1.4% as testing ramps up, but public health officials are worried cases are rising too quickly to adequately test, contact trace and isolate positive cases.
“The other indicators to really watch out for are the hospitalizations and ICUs, those are low at the moment, but again if there’s any signals that things are increasing it’s another indicator that we might be going in the wrong direction,’ said Dr. Tam.
Canadian provincial leaders say they are fed up with young people recklessly gathering at restaurants, bars, private homes and even parks and beaches.
“Every week we see images in bars, there’s dance floors that are full, all sorts of things are happening in bars,” said Genevieve Guilbault, Quebec’s minister of public safety during a press conference Friday in Quebec City.
Quebec announced a sweeping police operation for this weekend saying law enforcement officials would visit more than 1,000 bars and restaurants to make sure owners and patrons are complying with health regulations.
“We have to use every tool and every gesture at our disposal to avoid a second wave of Covid in Quebec,” added Guilbault.