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High-risk groups will be tested first for COVID-19, province changes who’ll be tested

A new approach to testing for COVID-19 will prioritize at-risk populations at the highest risk of local exposure in Alberta starting Monday.

Travellers who returned to Alberta after March 12 and have mild symptoms will no longer be tested for COVID-19.

Instead, the same advice applied to all Albertans will apply to them – to self-isolate at home and away from others.

Testing will be prioritized for the following individuals, if they are symptomatic:

  • People who are hospitalized with respiratory illness.
  • Residents of continuing care and other similar facilities.
  • People who returned from travelling abroad between March 8 and March 12 (before the self-isolation protocols were in place.
  • Health-care workers with respiratory symptoms (this testing will begin later this week).

This change is effective going forward, so anyone who has already been told by Health Link that they will be tested will still get tested.

“Changing our testing protocols will allow us to focus Alberta’s testing capacity on those most at risk. This is consistent with the approach happening across Canada. It will enable us to strategically use our testing resources. Our new approach reflects the fact that the most important thing anyone can do if they have mild symptoms isn’t to get tested – it’s to stay home and self-isolate.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health

Anyone with symptoms who does not fit any of these categories should stay home and self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days from the start of their symptoms, or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.

The online self-assessment tool has been updated to reflect the change in testing for returning travellers.

Alberta Health Services is building extra capacity to be able to provide advice to returning travellers with symptoms, ensuring they are following proper medical directions including staying home and away from others, and monitoring their symptoms.

These resources are expected to be in place later this week, the province said Monday.

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