Travellers who need a rapid COVID-19 test can now book a swab at a nearby pharmacy.

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Travellers who need a rapid COVID-19 test can now book a swab at a nearby pharmacy.

On Monday, Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon announced pharmacists can now perform, interpret and provide test results from rapid COVID-19 antigen or molecular tests to travellers, under a new emergency order.

"A lot of individuals are looking at their options in terms of testing and we want to broaden their ability to get tests closer to home," Gordon said during a media availability at Prairie Health Apothecary in the Meadowood neighbourhood of Winnipeg.

Gordon said expanding the scope of practice for pharmacists and allowing them to offer rapid tests will especially benefit travellers looking to head to the United States who require a COVID-19 test. Previously, pharmacists were not permitted by Manitoba Health to administer and interpret rapid antigen or molecular tests, which can produce a result in 15 minutes.

Pharmacies across Manitoba will be responsible for acquiring the rapid tests, setting their own testing rates and advertising services to clients.

Ashley Hart, president of Pharmacists Manitoba, said the rates for rapid tests will be comparable to other Canadian provinces that have permitted pharmacies to offer the service. The cost for rapid antigen testing can range between $50 and $100, she said.

"We are pleased that we are now able to offer rapid testing similar to that of other provinces across the country. Rapid testing in pharmacies is another small step towards bringing Manitoba in line with the advanced pharmacy practices seen in other provinces across Canada," Hart said.

Hart said pharmacies will be working over the coming days and weeks to be able to offer rapid testing services in communities across the province.

Rapid tests for travel purposes are only recommended for people who are not experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. In order to get a rapid test, travellers will have to present proof of upcoming travel.

The onus is also on travellers to ensure the test they are taking meets the entry requirements of their destination. Some destinations may require a PCR molecular test for entry, which are not available at pharmacies in Manitoba.

Pharmacists will also be able provide documentation of a negative test result for travel purposes. At this time, the documentation would not be considered government issued, Hart said.

Travellers entering or returning to Canada from an international destination are required to show proof of a negative PCR test upon re-entry.

Gordon said the provincial government is not subsidizing the cost of the asymptomatic, rapid antigen tests for travellers.

Meanwhile, the cost to receive a PCR test for travel purposes at a private laboratory is determined by the private sector, she noted. Advertised rates in Manitoba for PCR testing can be up to $450.

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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