Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }
Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you make the most of staying home.
Visit the hub

People line up for COVID-19 tests at an outdoor clinic, in Montreal, on March 24, 2020.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Regions across Canada are ramping up efforts to identify people with COVID-19 but some labs are facing a backlog due to diminishing supplies of essential chemicals needed for tests.

“We all would want more tests,” Canada’s chief public officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday.

The World Health Organization has said expansive testing is the way to curb the pandemic, but global demand has outpaced the supply of reagents – the specific chemicals needed by laboratories to complete the tests.

Story continues below advertisement

The Center for Disease Control in the United States has also said that important reagents are “now are in short supply,” a worry echoed by medical associations around the world.

They are all looking for the chemical solutions at the same time and, as a result, some Canadian health authorities and labs are seeking alternative supply chains.

Nearly 120,000 Canadians have been tested for the novel coronavirus – an average of 10,000 a day.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Monday linked that province’s huge testing backlog to a lack of reagents. He said health officials were doing everything they could to get more of the chemicals.

Agriculture Canada has been providing reagents to the provincial lab in Alberta as it waits for an order of the testing solution to arrive, said Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan. The lab is also working with the University of Calgary, University of Alberta and the University of Lethbridge to find any available supply.

“If the reagents run critically low, there are testing contingencies in place that will ensure we do not have to slow or halt COVID-19 testing,” he said in an e-mail.

Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said this week he couldn’t quantify the shortage in that province but noted it is a major factor in slowing down tests.

Story continues below advertisement

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says overall in Canada, an equal number of Canadians who have tested positive for COVID-19 contracted the virus from travel and from transmission within their own communities. But the trend is now turning toward community spread. The Canadian Press

“Right now the major roadblock is the reagent and that is worldwide.”

Manitoba’s provincial lab is working on a solution, Roussin added, which may involve manufacturing its own reagents.

Health Canada is also exploring alternative COVID-19 tests and the national lab in Winnipeg is working to determine their efficacy.

Certain groups are being prioritized for testing in Canada, including anyone in long-term care facilities, patients who are already hospitalized and health-care workers.

“This virus has spread unbelievably quickly,” said Jason Kindrachuk, a research chair in emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba.

“We didn’t appreciate how quickly it would be spread across the globe.”

Story continues below advertisement

He said when the novel coronavirus began to emerge in early January, some countries purchased significant amounts of important supplies. Those countries, including Australia, South Korea and Singapore, have been able to do expansive testing and have had success in mitigation and containment.

The pandemic has also resulted in critical shortages of personal protective equipment, ventilators and the swabs used in testing.

Kindrachuk said he saw similar supply issues when he was leading diagnostic efforts in Liberia during the Ebola outbreak in 2014.

Not everyone who should have been tested was, he said. The most important shift in that fight was getting people to keep distance from one another, he said.

“When we talk about physical distancing, this is not only keeping six feet away from people when you are out getting essentials. But this applies to everything that you do.

“All the short-term sacrifices will help us in the long term.”

Story continues below advertisement

With files from Allison Jones in Toronto

The spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues, with more cases diagnosed in Canada. The Globe offers the dos and don'ts to help slow or stop the spread of the virus in your community.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies