Long lineups, frayed nerves as sites run out of fast test kits

Many residents, who lined up for hours hoping to pick up a quick test package on Wednesday, came from there empty-handed but full of questions.

As the province struggles with record-breaking COVID-19 case numbers and the evolving threat of the Omicron variant, the backlog of testing has grown, and residents have been asked to rely on free rapid tests to help slow transmission.

Dr. Jennifer Russell and Premier Blaine Higgs both urged New Brunswickers last week to procure a supply of quick test kits before the holidays, saying a significant number of recent cases were initially discovered through quick tests.

But for many, it turns out that the tests are hard to come by.

Saint John resident Charles Waddell said he took time off work Wednesday to drive to the mobile side of Grand Bay-Westfield after two futile previous attempts to get quick tests at Saint John’s Diamond Jubilee Cruise Terminal.

When he got there, “there were cars queuing for half a mile,” Waddell said.

“An hour and 10 minutes after waiting in this queue, cars are driving by shouting things out the window. … They say ‘There are no tests, they are not even set up, no one even showed up.’ “

Waddell said he later heard via social media that the sets had not arrived at the Grand Bay-Westfield site and that the cruise terminal website was also out of set.

Residents shared similar frustrations in other regions and wrote on social media that the Fredericton website had run out of tests in the middle of Wednesday afternoon.

In Edmundston, former mayor Cyrille Simard told CBC News that the pick-up point at Edmundston Regional Hospital had also run dry.

“I came by to get some samples at [3 p.m.] and was told to come tomorrow when they ran out, “Simard said.

Waddell questioned why this kind of relevant information was not made available on the Horizon Health Network or the government in New Brunswick’s websites.

“Me, I’m old, I’m in my 50s, I’m not even on social media,” he said. “So I wasted a lot of my day.”

People are queuing up to pick up quick tests in Fredericton last Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Fredericton test collection site ran out of tests less than two hours after opening. (Mrinali Anchan / CBC News)

Not enough test kits available, Horizon says

Public health did not immediately respond to emailed questions Wednesday about whether there is a shortage of rapid test kits in the province.

Russell said last week that there was no shortage of kits and that more would be delivered in the coming weeks.

“Right now we have 189,000 sets or 1.5 million tests at hand,” she said at a December 21 press conference. “We expect another 500,000 tests this week and another 750,000 tests arriving in the first week of January.”

However, Horizon said Wednesday that not enough test kits are being delivered to its pickup locations.

“Horizon can confirm that the number of Point of Care Test (POCT) kits delivered to our hub and mobile pickup locations is insufficient to meet current public demand,” Community Vice President Jean Daigle said in an email.

Daigle said Wednesday hiccups at both the Saint John cruise terminal and the Grand Bay-Westfield mobile pickup location were caused by a delivery delay, with the expected sets not arriving until “long after” the clinic was due to open.

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The kits, which are distributed in New Brunswick, follow an industry standard for testing infectious diseases, according to manufacturer BTNX Inc. 2:43

“Given this unexpected situation, the decision was made to close the place for the day and reopen on Thursday, December 30 at 1pm using the warehouse that arrived from this late delivery,” he said.

Daigle noted that Horizon is working with the government to address these issues and apologized for the inconvenience to residents.

“We are working with our on-site teams to ensure that everyone queuing to receive a set can be notified when supplies are running low to reduce the number of people waiting unnecessarily,” he said. he.

Meanwhile, some residents said the lack of available sets has gotten them on edge.

Saint John resident Dick Murphy, who was also in the long line at Grand Bay-Westfield, acknowledged that the rapid and unexpected arrival of the highly portable Omicron variant has complicated things for the province, but said residents have all been asked to test often with fast sets.

“We try to be conscientious and follow the rules,” Murphy said.

“If the expectation is that if you feel a little out of place, and the front line on the whole is to give yourself a quick test, then I guess that worries me.”

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