EDMONTON -- Albertans living in remote communities will soon be able to receive COVID-19 results much faster.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) is getting 250 handheld devices and 100,000 testing kits from Spartan Bioscience Inc. for $9.5 million to test for the novel coronavirus in rural areas, such as Indigenous communities.

The devices, currently in the late stages of development, can confirm COVID-19 results in under an hour, AHS said.

"Alberta has been one of the fastest jurisdictions in the world for testing of COVID-19," said Health Minister Tyler Shandro. "However, the threat to the health of all Albertans remains."

The first shipment is expected to be delivered to health care facilities outside of Edmonton and Calgary next month. AHS said getting fast results eliminates the need to send lab samples from these remote areas to the nearest lab, "which can be a logistical challenge."

"COVID-19 places significantly increased demand on our lab capacity,” said AHS President and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu. "This new technology will supplement our current testing efforts and give AHS the ability to provide timely testing and results to more Albertans in more communities. This will help guide appropriate care and isolation, speed up our contact tracing, and reduce the risk of further spread."

As of Sunday, 44,999 had tested for COVID-19, and 661 have been diagnosed with the deadly virus.