Large numbers of COVID rapid tests kits are not being used, and there is a lack of focus on research as well.
On Tuesday May 11, in Question Period, I asked the Premier why he was leaving 900,000 rapid test kits unused, and why he did not have a COVID-19 research advisory committee to help him in the fight against COVID. My questions and the Premier's response are below. Of note, it is not Dr. Roussin's responsibility to have a research advisory committee, as the Premier suggests, it is the responsibility of the Premier and his Minister of Health. They are falling short.
Rapid Test Kits for
Use of Research for Spread Prevention
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Deputy Speaker, the government has more than 900,000 rapid test kits still unused. These tests should be used now to prevent spread in daycares, schools or businesses or to protect individuals with disabilities.
I also note that the government doesn't have an organized approach to COVID‑19 research. The FIPPAs I table show that there's no COVID research advisory committee, nor even a list of research being conducted.
Is the government not using the rapid tests to help reduce the spread of the virus because it hasn't got an organized approach to research to figure out the best way to use them, or is the government just waiting for a fourth wave to use the tests?
Hon. Brian Pallister (Premier): Yes, we've invested significant sums in rapid testing equipment that is of a higher grade than the federal government had offered to us. This is not to besmirch their intention. It was a noble intention, I'm sure, but the fact is that we needed more reliable equipment and that equipment has been out there now. We're increasingly partnering with numerous entities, private sector and public sector, to effectively use the rapid-testing machinery to assist us.
And the member need not criticize the vaccine team in his preamble because they have worked diligently. We're now ranking fourth in terms of total vaccines out there. I expect the number may even rise, in terms of our ranking, and this is because they have focused very diligently on prioritizing the most vulnerable people first and then moving to the broad-based application that we're now seeing in Manitoba.
We need to get people vaccinated, and in the meantime, we need people to follow the health orders that the member for Fort Rouge (Mr. Kinew) so diligently fails to follow.