COVID-19 testing and screening in Canada

COVID-19 testing and screening

Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has used the latest science and evidence to inform our response. By collaborating with scientists and experts, we are ensuring the provinces and territories have the tools they need to make informed testing and screening decisions.

As part of that effort, today, the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel released their first report. The report, Priority Strategies to Optimize Testing and Screening for COVID-19 in Canada, provides evidence-based advice on science and policy for the latest techniques in COVID-19 testing and screening, including the use of rapid tests.

The Report provides advice in the following areas: enhancing diagnostic capacity with lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing; deploying rapid tests for screening; reducing barriers for access to testing in under-served and higher risk communities to ensure that every Canadian that needs a test can access one; and improving communication strategies to ensure every Canadian understands the latest public health information on COVID-19. 

Quick Facts

  • Established by the Health Minister, the Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, provides science and policy advice to help inform decisions on innovative approaches to COVID-19 testing and screening, including advice on how to use different tests and approaches, strategies for different settings, and emerging technologies. 
  • Testing is the only way to confirm if someone has COVID-19. Knowing you are infected is important to protect your family and the people you encounter. Each province and territory decides how to test and screen their residents. 
  • The Government of Canada is providing $4.28 billion to support provinces and territories with the costs of increasing their capacity to conduct testing, perform contact tracing and share public health data that will help fight the pandemic. 
  • In March 2020, the Government of Canada approved the first rapid test. Since that time, 10 rapid tests have been approved for use by Health Canada. 
  • The Government of Canada began shipping rapid tests to provinces and territories in October 2020 and has since procured and shipped a total of 12,395,732 with an additional 1,873,070 for federal allocation. 
  • The current goal is to ensure provinces and territories have the capacity to test up to 200,000 people per day using the PCR testing, nationwide. Progress towards achieving this capacity is published online.

In creating the Report, the Panel consulted with more than 80 health experts, including Chief Medical Officers of Health across Canada, public policy and industry experts, and others involved with the COVID-19 response. 

To ensure that all Canadians can benefit from the Report’s findings, it has been shared with Ministers and senior officials, including Chief Medical Officers of Health, in each of the provinces and territories. We are committed to further collaboration with the provinces and territories to implement the Report’s recommendations in each region. 

To support the provinces and territories in their responsibilities to deliver healthcare, the Government of Canada will continue to work closely with them, providing national guidance documents, testing resources, and increasing data sharing to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

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