Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole denounced the current state of COVID-19 testing in Canada after his family waited hours at an Ottawa site Wednesday only to be turned away because of capacity issues.
O’Toole, his wife and their two children were tested this morning at a site in Gatineau, Que., which offers priority testing for MPs and their families.
The new Conservative leader is in self-isolation after being exposed to the virus; one of his staff members has tested positive for COVID-19. O’Toole had been travelling with this person in Quebec over the weekend and on Monday.
“While waiting in the COVID-19 testing line up, I was struck by how many families were waiting just like ours,” O’Toole said of the unnamed Ottawa testing centre. “Children are being sent home from school to get tested, and it is hard for moms and dads to keep them calm.”
All three testing sites in the city of Ottawa have been afflicted by hours-long waits over the last number of days as parents have scrambled to get their school-age children tested.
“The Trudeau Liberals have created this mess by refusing to approve other testing methods — despite all our allies having, for months, multiple tests including much faster and less invasive methods,” O’Toole said.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two antigen testing devices in May and July respectively — tests that can deliver results in less than 15 minutes — Health Canada regulators have not yet approved such products for use in this country.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Wednesday that Health Canada is not yet satisfied with any of the options it has been reviewing for rapid COVID-19 testing devices — and they will not be deployed across the country until regulators are sure they’ll meet a certain standard.
Hajdu dismissed U.S. approvals for such devices — Quidel Corporation’s Sofia 2 SARS device and Becton Dickinson’s Veritor System for Rapid Detection of SARS-CoV-2 — and said the regulators have real concerns about the accuracy of the testing despite assurances from the companies about their efficacy.
“We will not at Health Canada approve a test that, in any way, endangers Canadians’ health and I will say tests that don’t have a degree of accuracy to the satisfaction of the regulators can actually create further harms in communities,” Hajdu said.
O’Toole said the regulatory delays have caused undue hardship for Canadians because while the current lab-based testing model — the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) process — is very accurate, it can take much longer to process.
“I stand with the thousands of Canadian families who are waiting in lines today for tests. It has been seven months. Justin Trudeau must answer for why we do not have access to more of the tests our allies are using,” O’Toole said.