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Update: This Coquitlam pharmacy ran out of rapid antigen tests as people scramble for confirmation during Omicron uncertainty

Tri-City residents can expect long waits for PCR tests and a shortage of rapid antigen tests as COVID-19 cases surge in the region.
COVID rapid test
COVID-19 rapid antigen tests are becoming more common to diagnose COVID-19 in B.C. as testing capacity falls behind.

Long waits for PCR tests and challenges acquiring a rapid antigen test are causing uncertainty among some Tri-City residents seeking to find out if they have COVID-19.

"I would like to know one way or another," Tom Beattie, a Port Moody resident told the Tri-City News Monday (Jan. 10).

The worries comes as COVID-19 cases have grown immensely since mid-December in the Tri-Cities, with more than 2,000 positive tests during the week of Dec. 26, 2021, and Jan. 1, 2022, the last date information was made available.

The local building consultant said he felt flu-like symptoms a few days after getting his booster shot and thought nothing of it.

But when he started to get the sweats, a "brutal" sore throat, coughing, fatigue and more aches and pains, he thought his illness may be more than a lingering after-affect from the booster.


On Saturday (Jan. 8), Beattie managed to find an appointment for a COVID-19 test at the Coquitlam COVID-19 testing and immunization centre run by Fraser Health.

He grabbed the slot, even though it wasn't for another four days, just to get some assurance, whether positive or negative.

The long wait for a test was initially frustrating, but the Port Moody father says he understands the tough spot the government is in as it tries to deal with a rapidly expanding Omicron variant.

"I’d prefer to know it soon, but when something hits the whole health care system this quickly and they weren’t prepared for it, what can you do?" said Beattie.

Other Tri-City residents are not so relaxed.

One Port Coquitlam resident went on Facebook to try and find rapid antigen tests that provide results more quickly than the standard PCR test, although not always as accurately.


They managed to connect with someone who had a few.

Not everyone is so lucky.

A Coquitlam medical supply store listed on a federal government website as having rapid antigen tests has run out.

Pacific Prescriptions and Medical Supplies at 110-3001 Gordon Avenue no longer has tests, The Tri-City News was told.

It was uncertain when they would receive more.

Beattie said he preferred to take a PCR test and had heard that rapid antigen tests were all sold out.

Meanwhile, Fraser Health says due to high demand for testing, it may have to prioritize health care workers and people at risk for severe disease.

It cautions people that they may not need a test "if you have mild symptoms and are fully vaccinated."

Those who show up at the Coquitlam immunization and testing centre will be offered a rapid antigen test to take home, and it will be up to the individual to inform authorities if they test positive.

"f you book a test and proceed to one of our testing locations, you will be assessed upon arrival. While most people will receive rapid antigen tests, people who are at higher risk of illness, and those who live and work in high-risk settings, such as health care workers, will receive PRCR tests which includes saline/gargle. Further consultation with a medical health officer may also be done for individual cases and circumstances," stated Curtis Harling, a media spokesperson for Fraser Health.


Those who are sick should stay home and away from others for five days, and then "you can go about your business as long as you're feeling better and you no longer have a fever or symptoms."

People who test positive are also advised to inform close contacts.

Fraser Health is also not reporting COVID-19 exposures at schools as 32,000 students return to schools this week.

Due to the speed of the onset of symptoms, it's not practical to provide exposure notices to parents. However, it will list outbreaks on its website.

Currently, there are no school outbreaks listed on the website.

The Port Moody man who has been cautious and rarely goes out except to grocery shop, is not sure where he caught his illness, but says it's important for people to know what to do if they're sick.

Knowing the difference between whether they have COVID-19, the flu or a cold is important for mental health and to take proper steps to protect others, including their son, said Beattie.


Meanwhile, he and his wife are staying home to ensure they don't pass their illness on to anyone else.

On Tuesday, Beattie tested positive with the rapid antigen test given to him at the Coquitlam immunization and testing site on Barnet Highway.

Meanwhile, Ottawa is reportedly ramping up efforts to deliver COVID-19 rapid tests to provinces amid a surge in the highly transmissible Omicron variant that has pushed B.C. past its testing capacity.

It is expected to deliver more than 140 million rapid antigen tests to the provinces and territories on a per capita basis by the end of the monthly.

As many as 11 million are expected to arrive in B.C., with 500,000 delivered to schools.

"How they will be used in schools is still under review by the Ministry of Education," a spokesperson for School District 43 told The Tri-City News..

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week it was an “urban myth” the province was hoarding rapid tests in a warehouse somewhere in the province.

"We've made rapid tests in their various forms available to long-term care for many months," she said, referring to when B.C. mandated all long-term care staff to get vaccinated and rapid tests were used in the period before employees received their second dose.

- with files from Kyle Balzer, Tri-City News, and The Canadian Press