B.C. parents want access to rapid testing kits for school-aged kids

The federal government has shipped hundreds of thousands of rapid COVID-19 test kits to all Canadian provinces, but how they're being used varies widely.

In Ontario, those kits have been made available free to parents, so they can regularly test their school-aged children at home.

“We have driven out to Waterloo on a number of occasions and basically filled our trunk full of these tests, and we are giving them out to parents at our school who have signed up and committed to testing each child twice a week,” said Toronto parent Kate Dupuis.

Sabrina Wong of the UBC Centre for Health Services and Policy Research told CTV News the kits would be helpful as a screening test in B.C. as well, if only they were made available.

“As a parent, I don’t know of anywhere in British Columbia that you are able to get access to rapid testing kits such as what they have in this program in Ontario," Wong said.

It’s unclear how many rapid test kits are in British Columbia’s stockpile, or where they’re currently being used.

That frustrates North Vancouver mom Diana Araya Cerdas. “I know the tests are there, the government got them for every province. So they are there, and it would be great as a piece of mind, you know?“ she said.

Dupuis said that’s exactly what the rapid tests provide. She swabs her daughter twice a week.

“We do our testing on Mondays, and Monday morning, at least when I’m sending her off to school, I know she’s OK,” Dupuis said. About two-thirds of her child’s classmates are also regularly swabbed with the free test kits.

Dupuis would like to see other provinces make their rapid test kits available to parents.

“I wonder at one point if the federal government will have to step in and start putting some oversight into these and say look, you have been given these for your population to use, you need to start using them,” Dupuis said.

Wong agreed, arguing that providing access to the kits would help "democratize testing."

“I think parents would be thrilled to be able to do this, especially when those exposure notices come out,” said Wong.

Araya Cerdas told CTV News she would happily test her two children, who have just returned to class at their North Vancouver elementary school.

“They started back on Monday. I delayed it for two weeks because I was anxious about the protocols, the safety protocols,” she said. While they’re back in the classroom now, they may not stay there.

“I don’t know, it’s day by day, play it by ear,” said Araya Cerdas. “I’m very worried.”