WINNIPEG -- The province announced on Thursday that rapid-response COVID-19 testing will be coming to Manitoba through a partnership between the federal and provincial governments.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, the Manitoba First Nation Pandemic Response Co-ordination Team and the First Nations Inuit Health Branch have all joined forces to bring four GeneXpert machines to health care providers in northern Manitoba.

The machines, which can provide test results in as little as an hour, will go to Thompson, The Pas, Norway House Cree Nation and the Percy E. Moore Hospital at Peguis First Nation.

The province said the GeneXpert test kits will be for patients who may not be able to self-isolate as easily as others if they contract the virus which would result in them being at a higher risk of transmitting it.

It added that those who don't fall within a specific category will still have their tests sent to Cadham and Dynacare labs for testing.

“Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within northern communities have been a high priority since efforts to fight this virus within our province began several months ago,” said Cameron Friesen, Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living, in a news release. “This new equipment has the capability to provide a COVID-19 test result in about an hour and will be used to quickly confirm the presence of the virus in those patients who may require additional support to self-isolate.”

"So what it's utilized for is when there's a significant benefit to having a rapid test results and so most places and most individuals, if they're symptomatic we can test them, they can self-isolate pending results. In places where there might be a remote factor, where self-isolation within the community is quite difficult there might be significant benefits to getting a test result back right then and so we can work out ways to isolate that individual,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, the province's chief public health officer, at a news conference on Thursday.

He added the focus for rapid testing devices such as these is to maximize their benefit by using them in response to outbreaks in remote communities.

Three of the machines have already been installed and the fourth machine destined for The Pas is expected to be operational within weeks.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been three people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in northern Manitoba. All three of those cases have recovered.