On Rapid Testing in the Time of Omicron



One of the biggest questions as we face the emergence of the Omicron variant has been: if rapid testing helps us catch more COVID-19 infections and can lead to us catching more instances of Omicron in the community, why aren't rapid tests more accessible in B.C.? Shouldn't we be testing rapidly to keep track of this new variant?


One thing to remind ourselves, Dr. Conway stresses, is that these rapid tests are 70% sensitive - so, if you are in fact infected with the virus, rapid testing will pick up on 70% of cases.


A big concern of the public health community in British Columbia is that these rapid tests may be used inappropriately. Some may use the rapid testing -- and that 30% window for a false negative -- as a convenient excuse to disregard the COVID guidelines the province has put in place to avoid out-of-control transmission rates.


THAT SAID: it truly is a missed opportunity in the province to not be using rapid testing to identify transmission networks and intervene. There is no shortage of tests we could be administering in British Columbia; As long as there was some gesture toward reminding the public that these test should not be abused, or used as justification for individuals to not follow public health guidelines, rapid testing would do more good than harm towards helping us understand and, hopefully, isolate this new variant.