London’s main lab nearly doubles COVID-19 tests during just six weeks of second wave

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The lab’s six-figure total over the last six weeks comes despite a critical piece of lab equipment unexpectedly going offline on Sept. 24, a temporary downtime that led to a four-day backlog in test processing, LHSC said.

The lab returned to regular turnaround times on Sept. 28.

Last week, Health Canada approved a rapid COVID-19 test by Abbott Diagnostics Scarborough Inc., a device the company said can turn around a result from a sample in as little as 13 minutes. The federal government has announced a plan to buy 7.9 million of the rapid tests.

It is not yet clear whether the new test processing device will become part of the PaLM lab, LHSC said in a statement: “The federal government has not yet released specific details regarding the allocation plan for rapid testing devices.”

Demand for COVID-19 testing in London and across the province skyrocketed last month, fuelled by the return to school and rising case counts. After encouraging anyone who wanted a test to get one in the summer, the province narrowed the eligibility criteria for people seeking tests and moved assessment centres to an appointment-only model.

Provincewide, the test processing backlog reached 82,000 Thursday, its highest level of the pandemic. On Tuesday, the backlog was about 55,400 tests.

Plans are in place to increase London’s COVID-19 lab capacity in the next few months. The PaLM lab has hired additional staff and is angling to up its daily COVID-19 test capacity to 7,200 by year’s end.

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