Demand for rapid COVID-19 tests soars at Vancouver Island pharmacy

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, a West Shore pharmacy says demand for access to rapid tests in British Columbia is also soaring.

According to Peoples Pharmacy in Colwood, B.C., most of the time the phone rings, it’s somebody asking about where and when they can get a rapid test.

"It's probably about every second call we get, people do ask about that," said pharmacist Henry Kwok.

"Either wanting the test for themselves or wanting to have it on hand," he said.

Last week, the province announced that it has secured about 2.6 million rapid tests for distribution over the next month, but most will go to testing sites and other vulnerable groups.

Meanwhile rapid tests are being made widely available to the public in other provinces, sparking frustration for British Columbians trying to mitigate their risk of spreading COVID-19.

"Our situation is different from the different provinces," said Kwok. "Sometimes you do wonder why, because we are all Canadians."

Kwok says he's not surprised by the demand, given the recent spike in COVID-19 cases on the island.

"So I see where people are coming from," he said. "They’re wanting to basically know what their status is... With the Omicron cases climbing and at the rate that this thing is spreading, it’s nice to have this information."

In the absence of rapid tests, the pharmacy recommends self-monitoring for symptoms, phoning 811 if any symptoms develop, and taking a precautionary quarantine.

On Wednesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonie Henry said that anyone who feels symptoms of COVID-19 should assume they have it and self-isolate for seven days if they are fully vaccinated, or 10 days if they are not.