‘This broad testing initiative will help us detect new cases early, get people who test positive to self-isolate and stop the spread of the virus’
Nova Scotia is implementing a broad COVID-19 testing strategy for people who work at late-night bars and restaurants.
The government is requiring workers, and any patrons who went to one of them within the past two weeks, to book a test even if they don’t have symptoms.
“Most of our recent cases of COVID-19 have been among young people who have been to late-night bars and restaurants,” says Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health. “This broad testing initiative will help us detect new cases early, get people who test positive to self-isolate and stop the spread of the virus. This is one tool in our toolbox, but it does not diminish how important it is for people to tighten their social circles and activities and follow public health measures.”
Workers and visitors must go online to schedule a test. The asymptomatic testing will be available until Nov. 30. People who are tested through this process do not need to self-isolate while they wait for test results as long as they don’t have symptoms.
In October, a Canadian law firm announced it was offering some 600 employees COVID testing services.
Canadian HR Reporter also spoke with a legal expert for answers on the legalities of screening employees for the virus.
Rapid testing grows
Ontario recently announced it is rolling out nearly 1.3 million COVID-19 rapid tests in select workplaces in an effort to identify and manage outbreaks and stop the spread of COVID-19.
Nova Scotia also began a rapid-testing pilot on Nov. 21 in downtown Halifax, and the government says that will continue this week with the pop-up sites moving to new locations each day. Anyone who gets a positive result from the rapid test will also be given a standard test and sent home immediately to self-isolate while they wait for the results.
“This isn’t about blaming or shaming,” says Strang. “The important thing right now is that people come forward so we can identify as many cases of COVID-19 as we can and take action to reduce the spread.”
The use of rapid antigen detection tests (RADT) for SARS-CoV-2 is a rapidly evolving field as new tests and technologies come to market, says the Canadian government.
Positive results should be considered "presumptive positive" until they are confirmed using a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method, because while RADTs have high specificity, there will be false positives, particularly if virus transmission is low in the local context, making the pre-test probability low, it says.
“Potential characteristics of these tests (faster turnaround time, lower per-test cost, ability to do the test in a setting by non-professionals on a more frequent basis, amongst others) suggest that they will have an important role to play in the next phase of the response.”
The government cites certain cases where RADTs might be of benefit:
- Repeated testing of workers in remote work areas to prevent introduction or minimize the chance of spread within a work site.
- Prospective testing of workers in high-risk settings including those in large processing plants, long-term care facility workers and offshore/marine workers.
Employees have mixed feelings about being tested for COVID-19 by their employer, finds a recent survey in the U.S.