NWT residents may soon get their COVID test results in under an hour

(CKLB file photo.)

Two rapid-result testing technologies will be coming to the Northwest Territories.

The NWT’s Medical Director Dr. Sarah Cook confirmed the information during a news conference on Wednesday.

Spartan Bioscience is an Ottawa-based company that has developed a coffee-cup-sized portable DNA analyzer called the Spartan Cube.

Earlier this week, Health Canada approved the technology be used for COVID-19 testing.

According to Spartan, “The automated test can be operated by non-laboratory personnel in settings such as airports, border crossings, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, clinics, and remote communities.”

According to Cook, the territorial government intends to send the cubes to Inuvik, Hay River and Fort Smith, as well as keep some at Stanton Territorial Hospital.

Navdeep Bains is the federal minister of innovation, science and economic development. He has been quoted as saying the cube could return results in about half an hour.

The other testing kit is by American company Cepheid and is called the GeneXpert Xpress, which can provide results in about 45 minutes.

Dr. Cook said these units would be kept at the Stanton hospital.

Better community surveillance and relaxed measures

Dr. Cook said with the four-day average delay on getting results, “it’s difficult to have real time data about what’s happening.”

She called the new technologies are “very promising” for keeping an eye on how—and if—COVID-19 is affecting communities.

However, that isn’t likely to be the case for another three to five weeks.

Dr. Cook said the government is still waiting for the shipments of both technologies and there will be a setup, validation and training period with staff.

NWT Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola added that having real-time data will make it easier for the government to pinpoint the source of the illness–whether it’s travel-related (as all cases have been so far) or through community spread.

“In areas that are COVID-free, it may allow more relaxing of certain measures or allowing certain activities to occur because I have a very strong sense that COVID-19 is not circulating and the risk is minimal,” said Dr. Kandola.

In the meantime, though, residents should still practice social distancing and healthy hygiene like washing your hands regularly and coughing into your elbow.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.