‘No longer has utility’: UBC discontinues rapid testing, vaccine declaration program

UBC is discontinuing its rapid testing program for those who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or those who chose not to declare their vaccination status.

President Santa Ono and Vice-Chancellor Lesley Cormack announced the change in a broadcast to students Monday afternoon. The pair said that the high level of vaccination on campus — “over 97 percent of students, faculty and staff are double vaccinated” — and new public health measures justify this change.

“The evolution of the virus and the presence of the Omicron variant now indicates that a different public health and safety approach should be taken,” they wrote.

“This means that regular rapid testing of asymptomatic individuals under the UBC COVID-19 Rapid Testing Program no longer has utility,” they added.

Rapid tests are still available on campus Monday through Friday for symptomatic and asymptomatic students.

Along with an end to the rapid testing program, Ono and Cormack said UBC will no longer require vaccine declarations after March 1.

“Some members of our community are still bound by Public Health Orders that require proof of vaccination — these are students in residence and students and employees who are based within health care settings,” they noted.

It is unclear how these changes will impact the university’s COVID-19 enforcement policy passed by the Senate late last year.

Under this policy, students who failed to declare their vaccination status or attend weekly rapid testing appointments faced the risk of being placed on academic hold. If students continued to not comply, they would be deregistered.

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) recommended against the Senate’s policy to deregister students who do not comply with the vaccine declaration program, due to potential “detrimental long-term effects on uptake of future public health measures.”

Masks will still be required indoors and community members are encouraged to complete a daily self-assessment for symptoms.

In early January, the University of Victoria discontinued its rapid testing program. UBC told The Ubyssey later in January that it would continue the rapid testing program as a “campus safety measure.”

VCH recommended the Board of Governors discontinue the rapid testing program in late November 2021. A new letter cited in the broadcast email called the program “not useful in preventing transmission” at this point in the pandemic.