CALGARY, Alberta, Feb 9 (Reuters) – The Canadian province of Alberta is providing rapid COVID-19 tests for a pilot program at Suncor Energy Inc’s main oil sands plant and a nearby First Nations and Métis community, the government said on Tuesday.
Suncor, Canada’s second-largest oil producer, is taking part in the pilot project led by Creative Destruction Lab, a Toronto-based nonprofit organization, along with 11 other companies across the country. The aim is to develop rapid screening for asymptomatic staff suitable for workplaces nationwide in order to help reopen the economy.
“This is a win-win. It will help protect hundreds of workers at one of the largest work sites in the province, and support research that will help us understand the best way to use rapid tests in workplaces as well as other settings,” Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro told a news conference.
The western Canadian province is also developing rapid screening programs for asymptomatic people in correctional facilities, shelters and schools, he added.
Alberta has provided 7,000 rapid tests. The pilot will test 200 workers at Suncor’s oil sands base plant near Fort McMurray and 125 staff in Fort McKay twice a week for 10 weeks.
Suncor executive Dennis Banks said screening began a few weeks ago and there had so far been no positive test results.
“This is one more layer of protection for our workforce and communities near our operations,” Banks said. “We look forward to scaling and extending rapid testing in other locations.”
The Alberta government also said it would provide rapid tests to operators of all long-term care and supportive-living facilities in the province to routinely screen their asymptomatic staff.
Alberta has 6,196 active COVID-19 cases and 432 people in hospitals as a result of the virus. The province has registered a total of 125,326 cases and 1,710 deaths. (Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Peter Cooney)