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Lab Testing

B.C. is conducting COVID-19 diagnostic testing for patients who need it with compatible symptoms and risk of exposure.

Testing and laboratory guidance

Who to test

Testing is available for  all patients who need it, but not everyone requires a test. B.C. is currently testing those with respiratory symptoms who are:
1. Hospitalized, or likely to be hospitalized
2. Health care workers
3. Residents of long term care facilities
4. Part of an investigation of a cluster or outbreak. 

To prioritize testing, label the requisition as coming from:
Hospital (label as HOSP)
Long-term care facility (label as LTCF)
Health Care Worker (label as HCW). Read the new guidance on testing health care workers.

B.C. is testing all samples for influenza-like illness for COVID-19, influenza A and B, and RSV.  If additional advice is needed, consult your regional or provincial microbiologist or regional medical health officer.

Who does not need to be tested for Covid-19?
If an individual has no symptoms, mild symptoms, or is a returning traveller and isolating at home, they do not require a test.  This group can be managed at home.

Please advise patients, with or without a history of travel, who have respiratory symptoms that can be managed at home, to self-isolate at home for a minimum of 10 days after onset of their symptoms.  After 10 days, if their temperature is normal and they feel better, they can return to their routine activities. Coughing may persist for several weeks, so a cough alone does not mean they need to continue to self-isolate for more than 10 days. 

What about household contact of a patient with respiratory symptoms? 

People who live in the same household as a patient with respiratory symptoms are at higher risk of being exposed. We are asking household contacts to self-monitor for respiratory symptoms for 14 days, and if respiratory symptoms do develop, to self-isolate.  As much as possible, household contacts should distance themselves from the patient (e.g. stay in separate rooms, sleep in separate beds and use separate bathrooms if possible). 

Testing time

Tests are run multiple times throughout the day. Patients who test positive will be contacted within 24 hours following receipt of the sample at BCCDC Public Health Laboratory. 

Patients who do not hear from public health are asked to wait 72 hours to call to confirm negative test results. Physicians should call the medical microbiologist if the test needs to be expedited or if they have not received test results after 72 hours. BCCDC will not be able to assist patients or physicians calling before the 72 hour timeframe. 

Personal protective equipment 

Use contact and droplet precautions with a surgical mask and eye protection when collecting a nasopharyngeal or throat swab or sputum. A N95 respirator is recommended for aerosolizing procedures. For more information, visit the page on personal protective equipment or read the Respiratory protection guidance (PDF) document.


Submit a single swab sample using a red Nasopharyngeal swab (NP) or a Throat Swab (NP is the preferred sample collection). 

Swab supply is critically limited and swabs are being distributed in order of priority populations to be tested. To order swabs, fill in the Sample Container Order Form (PDF) and email request to  OR fax request to (604) 707-2606.

SOURCE: Lab Testing ( )
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