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Northern communities in Manitoba will receive COVID-19 testing machines that can deliver results in as little as an hour.

A GeneXpert testing machine will be used at hospitals in Norway House, Thompson and The Pas. A fourth has been installed at the hospital in Hodgson, which isn't in the north but serves Peguis First Nation.

The machine, which costs about $23,000, can process just under 100 tests in 24 hours. Results are obtained on-site rather than having to send tests to outside labs.

Northern communities are getting them first because the machines provide fast results but can't perform mass testing, said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial health officer.

"In places where there might be a remote factor, where self-isolation within the community is quite difficult, there might be significant benefit to getting a test result back right then, so we can work out ways to isolate that individual," he said Thursday.

Eventually, the machines may be installed in non-remote areas, Roussin said, noting the province will look into it as more testing kits are made available. The test is about equal in terms of accuracy with the tests performed at the Cadham Provincial Lab in Winnipeg.

GeneXpert machines are in use across Canada. In Nunavut, a GeneXpert machine has been set up in Rankin Inlet, and one was already in place in Iqaluit, most often used for tuberculosis testing.

Dr. Michael Isaac, the medical officer of health for the Northern Regional Health Authority, said he believed Manitoba has been "fairly aggressive" in getting the GeneXpert machine into the province.

"I think we might be a couple weeks or a few weeks behind some other places, but I think for the most part we’ve been able to very quickly acquire the device," he said.


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Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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