Surge in demand: Distribution of COVID-19 rapid-test kits cut short in New Brunswick

Faced with long lineups and heavy demand, health officials in New Brunswick were forced to cut short the distribution of free COVID-19 rapid-test kits at three locations Saturday.

At Magic Mountain on Magnetic Hill in Moncton, cars lined up kilometres down the road.

It was the first time the province provided rapid test kits to the public for take-home use.

Danica Gautreau, a nurse practitioner who has her own practice, said some people arrived as early as 6 a.m. which was two hours before they opened.

"They are going pretty fast. There is a lot of people," she said.

The sites opened on Saturday were located in Moncton, Grand Falls and Perth-Andover were scheduled to run from 8 a.m. To 5 p.m.

But by noon, the Moncton site had handed out all 4,500 kits. According to the province, pick-up sites had to close early due to the overwhelming demand for tests.

"We didn’t really know how much interest it would be, we didn’t know it would be that many people," she said.

Many people in line at the Moncton location reported waiting between 30 and 90 minutes to get a kit.

Gautreau said that each person in the vehicle gets one COVID-19 rapid test kit which has 5 tests within it. Those who currently have COVID-19 symptoms or have contracted the virus within the last 90 days were not able to take home a test.

On Friday, New Brunswick's Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CTV News that the province is hoping by offering tests to the public will help determine if there are more cases out there.

"It’s really important for public health to know how many active cases there are in the province. At this point, we’ve been able to keep contact tracing going but we want to try and prevent community spread," she said.

Shephard said as of this week the province has deployed over a million rapid tests.

"I think if individuals are going to pick up the tests, they’re doing that for a reason, to either assure themselves but also to know that they should be isolating if they need to," said Shephard.

On Monday, rapid testing kits will be handed out at more locations across the province, not limited to circuit breaker zones.

-With files from The Canadian Press.