Manitoba switching COVID-19 testing process to help deal with backlog

WINNIPEG –

Manitoba’s testing process for COVID-19 is changing as the province continues to deal with a testing backlog.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, the deputy chief provincial public health officer, announced that starting Wednesday most people who go to be tested will receive a rapid test and not a PCR test.

“People who test on a rapid antigen test should consider themselves as having COVID and take all the necessary precautions that we have set out, like notifying your close contacts and following self-isolation rules,” said Atwal.

He said for most cases people who test positive will not need to get a PCR test to confirm that they have COVID-19.

For those people who do test positive on the rapid test, Atwal said the province will not be tracking those cases and only people who return for a PCR test will be recorded in daily numbers.

“I think there is going to be a shift here. We are already shifting on how we manage COVID-19. COVID-19 is there, it’s out there. There are lots of cases out there, there are lots of cases we don’t know about.

“Historically, with the previous variant, with Delta, we knew for every case we identified, we missed out on four. With this Omicron variant, likely for every case we identify we are missing out maybe eight, maybe 10 cases as well.”

He said from a public health standpoint this is still about cases of COVID-19, but it is more focused on the impact on the acute care system because of the number of cases that are popping up.

Atwal added the province has a list of people who would be eligible for a PCR test and it includes people who provide direct care such as hospital staff and people working at long-term care facilities.

“Testing sites are going to continue to use PCR tests for people who might be at higher risk of more severe illness or where the greater certainty of PCR testing is needed.”

Atwal is also urging younger, healthier Manitobans who have symptoms to assume they have COVID-19, stay home, and isolate to help prevent a further backlog on the testing system.

He said the province currently has a backlog of around 6,800 tests.

“This means we are under-reporting the spread of the virus across the province. We are putting some additional capacity in place to clear these tests. So you can expect to see even higher case counts in the days to come as those are dealt with.” 

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