WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government is expanding rapid COVID-19 testing to more personal care home staff.

Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson made the announcement in a news release on Monday, saying this expansion comes after a trial of rapid testing of asymptomatic staff at three personal care homes in Manitoba.

“The fast identification of a positive test result enables the quickest possible action for the facility and the province,” she said.

“Using our available complement of rapid tests to further expand access to this testing will increase the safety of residents and staff in personal care homes.”

The asymptomatic staff at the participating personal care homes will be able to access these rapid COVID-19 tests at work and will be encouraged to get tested once a week.

Any staff with COVID-19 symptoms or who have been exposed to COVID-19 need to stay home and follow public health rules.

“Asymptomatic testing for staff in personal care homes is another tool in our arsenal to combat the spread of COVID-19, particularly in congregate living settings like personal care homes that provide care to our most vulnerable Manitobans,” Stefanson said.

“These tests, in addition to other pandemic measures put in place at personal care homes like enhanced sanitizing, heightened screening procedures and the first dose of (the) vaccine being given to all personal care home residents, help keep the spread of the virus as limited as possible.”

During the pilot project, which took place over four weeks, 1,422 tests were completed across three different facilities. This resulted in three positive test results.

According to the province, other care homes expressed interest in getting rapid testing for their own facilities. 

Nearly 40 personal care homes are expected to implement the voluntary staff testing initiative, which uses the Abbott Panbio COVID-19 rapid antigen test. This test provides results in approximately 20 minutes.

Staff at the personal care homes are being trained to conduct the tests, and any positive results will be reported to public health as probable cases and then confirmed by lab-based testing.