Coronavirus: Canadian health authorities prepare to increase COVID-19 lab testing

Health authorities are working to ramp up Canada’s capacity to conduct laboratory testing for the novel coronavirus with the goal of enabling some hospitals to diagnose patients.

When infections first began to appear in Canada in January, all provinces had to send presumed COVID-19 test samples to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg for confirmation.

Since then, Canada has seen 33 COVID-19 cases, most of them in Ontario and British Columbia. As the tally climbed, the two most affected provinces stepped up their screening efforts, and their public health labs have stopped sending samples to Winnipeg.

Vanessa Allen, chief of medical microbiology at the Public Health Ontario Laboratory, said the national lab’s corroboration provided an “added layer of confidence” as researchers across the globe worked to establish testing protocols for the emerging virus.

But with the benefit of more evidence and experience, Allen said the provincial lab’s procedures have evolved to become faster and more sensitive.

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