The Saskatchewan government is waiting on an approval from Health Canada before it can receive and start using 50 rapid COVID-19 testing units capable of testing a total of 25,000 people for traces of the novel coronavirus.
According to the provincial Ministry of Health, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) ordered the so-called Cube tests from Ottawa-based Spartan Bioscience.
Spartan is one of several companies that has recently been lobbying the province on COVID-19 matters. Spartan’s mission, as described on the Saskatchewan lobbyist registry, is “securing government purchases of Spartan Bioscience’s testing kits.”
The portable Cube testing unit has been described as a potential game-changer by health officials, with the company claiming it could deliver on-location results in less than 60 minutes. The company has said upgrades to the swabbing test would further cut the delivery time for results down to 30 minutes.
The Saskatchewan government’s purchase of the testing kits has hit a snag, however. Health Canada recently restricted the device to research use only after it experienced problems.
Spartan’s CEO previously told CBC News the test it will be fixed and in service by the summer.
The federal department “indicated no concerns regarding the accuracy and analytical performance of Spartan’s test reagents and portable DNA analyzer device,” Spartan wrote on its website.
A spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Health Authority said its contract with Spartan ensures “the purchase is contingent on Health Canada approval of the product.”
It’s not clear what the dollar value of the contract is, nor whether any money has actually been exchanged yet.
“The delay of delivery due to recall has not hindered our provincial laboratory medicine testing targets or approaches,” the SHA spokespeson said.
Spartan declined to comment on Saskatchewan’s order “due to commercial sensitivity.”
Premier Scott Moe has previously touted a goal of 1,500 COVID-19 tests performed per day in the province. This was around the time Moe announced the plan to gradually reopen segments of the economy, which he said would go hand in hand with aggressive testing.
The level of testing never reached that point.
This week, a senior medical health officer said some people in the province may be not be seeking testing because they perceive a stigma around the disease.