Coronavirus: Health minister signs order for faster access to COVID-19 test kits

Canada’s health minister has signed an interim order to speed up access to COVID-19 test kits to help identify new cases of the novel coronavirus.

Health Canada said in a statement Wednesday that the order signed by Health Minister Patty Hajdu will help expedite the arrival of two new diagnostic tests to allow provincial labs to speed up testing.

Those test kits, made by Roche Molecular Systems and ThermoFisher Scientific — both based in the U.S. — were approved for use by the federal government earlier Wednesday.

It will also ensure Canadian access to other COVID-19-related medical devices “used to treat, mitigate or prevent COVID-19, if necessary,” Health Canada added.

“COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving global health crisis, and we have been working around the clock with provinces and territories to make sure everyone has what they need to continue to detect and interrupt the chain of transmission,” Hajdu said in a statement.

“Early diagnosis is a critical component, so we are taking extraordinary measures to help make that happen as quickly as possible.”

What does an interim order do?

Health Canada says the interim order is “one of the fastest mechanisms available to the Government of Canada to help make health products available to address larger scale public health emergencies.”

The order, which will last for 14 days but can be extended up to a year if needed, allows the sale and import of the two newly-approved test kits in Canada. It would also allow other health-care manufacturers to submit their own test kits and related medical devices for faster approval.

Health officials told reporters Wednesday that the need for faster testing is becoming more critical as cases in Canada spike. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 600 cases have been confirmed across the country, eight of them fatal.

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