Albertans divided over benefits of private COVID-19 testing


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As international travel is expected to ramp up next year, some say they’d consider turning to the private sector for a COVID-19 test to fulfil requirements of their destination.

A new survey from Angus Reid commissioned by travel company Sunwing found 56 per cent of Canadians are considering going on vacation in the near future. Over 70 per cent of regular vacationgoers said they are considering an upcoming getaway.

Allison Wallace with Flight Centre Canada says the travel agency is also seeing an increase in inquiries for destinations abroad, with sunny places like Mexico showing the most interest.

“The general sentiment seems to be that people aren’t planning anything outside of Canada until 2021,“ Wallace said.

Getting tested, insurance and quarantine requirements are the top questions Canadians are asking.

For testing, the majority of destinations allowing travellers require negative tests within 72 hours before getting on a plane, Wallace said.


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But access to tests varies by province and some clinics won’t do a test if the reason for one is non-essential travel.

“As a result, we are advising travellers that require proof of a negative test to check with their local clinics to ensure they can get one and that they can get the result within the required period of time,” Wallace said.

Private testing for COVID-19 could offer would-be travellers a certain degree of security.

Ichor Blood Services is one company in Alberta offering private COVID-19 testing. For a fee of $120, the company will come to an individual’s home to conduct the test, which has a targeted turnaround time between 48 and 72 hours.

The company also offers a serology test for $80 that detects virus antibodies, which tells someone whether they have been infected with COVID-19 in the past.

Ichor Blood Services declined an interview with Postmedia.

Currently, in preparation for the winter cold and flu season, COVID-19 testing in Alberta prioritizes those with symptoms and vulnerable groups who are more at risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Tests also prioritize close contacts of confirmed cases and workers or residents at outbreak sites.

However, asymptomatic testing is available for teachers and school staff, health-care workers, and staff and residents at congregate living facilities like long-term care. People experiencing homelessness and travellers who need a test before leaving also qualify for asymptomatic testing.


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Postmedia posed the question of when and why someone would pay for a private test on Facebook, where responses were divided over the role of for-profit private testing.

Some commented that private testing could edge out the public system, or that it was unfair to people who couldn’t afford to pay.

Others were more open to private testing.

Lori Blatz believes private tests could be used to fill a gap in the health-care system.

“For example, you have a coworker that becomes ill and gets sent home. And maybe that coworker is insisting, ‘No, I’m fine, it’s fine,’ ” Blatz said. “You could maybe as a company, have that coworker go for private testing, and get results possibly sooner than what you would through the province.”

What would be more enticing, Blatz said, is if private companies could deliver results within a day.

“The biggest stumbling block for me isn’t necessarily just private, it’s if you’re paying that, I would expect my results under 24 hours,” Blatz said.

“Because you actually need to go from the testing site into immediate self-isolation, otherwise you run the risk of contaminating yourself between the two … that’s why that 24-hour window would be really important if you’re needing the results in order to be able to go somewhere.”


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