COVID-19 testing in Alberta will now focus on groups at the highest risk of local exposure, as well as at-risk populations.
On Monday, Alberta Health Services announced that travellers who returned to Alberta after March 12, and have mild symptoms, will no longer be tested for COVID-19. Instead, they will be told to self-isolate at home and away from others.
This change is effective going forward, so anyone who has already been told by Health Link that they will be tested will still get tested.
“Changing our testing protocols will allow us to focus Alberta’s testing capacity on those most at risk. This is consistent with the approach happening across Canada,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, in a statement.
“It will enable us to strategically use our testing resources. Our new approach reflects the fact that the most important thing anyone can do if they have mild symptoms isn’t to get tested – it’s to stay home and self-isolate.”
Testing will be prioritized for the following individuals, if they are symptomatic:
- People who are hospitalized with respiratory illness.
- Residents of continuing care and other similar facilities.
- People who returned from travelling abroad between March 8 and 12 (before the self-isolation protocols were in place).
- Health-care workers with respiratory symptoms (this testing will begin later this week).
Anyone with symptoms, who does not fit any of these categories, should stay home and self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days from the start of their symptoms, or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.
The COVID-19 online self-assessment tool has been updated to reflect the change in testing for returning travellers.
Alberta Health Services is building extra capacity to be able to provide advice to returning travellers with symptoms, ensuring they are following proper medical directions, including staying home and away from others, and monitoring their symptoms.
Extra resources are expected to be in place later this week.
Dr. Peter Bouch, a Red Deer family doctor and past chair of Red Deer Primary Care Network, said he received a few calls last week from patients having problems reaching anyone at 811 Health Link, the province’s 24-hour health advice line, but doctors can’t speed up that process.
He encouraged people to check out Alberta Health Services website for information on COVID-19, and follow the advice of Hinshaw and other medical experts who are focused on limiting the spread of the virus during the early stage of the pandemic.
“If you have to go out in public, social distancing is very important, staying at least two metres away from everybody,” Bouch said.
“I think people are getting it. Essentially, if you’re driving in town at night, it’s like a ghost town.”