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COVID-19 test demands lead to threats against B.C. health staff

‘If you do not have symptoms you don’t need to be tested’
COVID-19 testing site at Victoria Conference Centre. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

A rush of demands for COVID-19 tests has turned ugly at some B.C. testing centres as health care staff follow directions to restrict testing capacity to people with symptoms that indicate infection or other increased health risks.

“We have received reports of health-care workers at COVID-19 testing centres being intimidated, threatened and otherwise verbally harassed by some people seeking tests,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a statement Jan. 5. “If you do not have any symptoms, you do not need to be tested. Please do not attempt to access testing services. This will allow health-care workers to prioritize care to those who need it.”

With test and laboratory capacity at maximum as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has sent infection rates soaring since before Christmas, Henry has advised that people who have mild respiratory symptoms or have been exposed to someone infected should assume they are infected and self-isolate. The isolation period has been reduced to five days to reflect the faster development and resolution of Omicron infection for most people.

Farnworth said the law passed in 2021 to protect health care staff from anti-vaccine protesters who targeted hospitals also applies to testing centres, and threats or aggressive behaviour will be reported to police.

“If you have had a test recommended by a medical professional or the online COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool, please seek a COVID-19 test through your local health authority,” Farnworth and Henry advise.

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