Increasing rapid antigen testing will help identify people not showing symptoms of infection who may be carrying COVID-19 into workplaces and communities
May 7, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Health Canada
Testing and screening, in combination with personal public health measures and vaccination, are important tools to protect Canadians and help limit the spread of COVID-19. Some studies suggest that up to 50% of COVID-19 transmission could be caused by people without symptoms. Testing and screening are important tools to help reduce the risk of outbreaks, quickly identify and isolate cases, and limit spreading in workplaces and the community.
Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health and the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, are encouraging businesses and organizations to apply for free rapid tests for workplace screening projects. Workplace screening is another layer of protection for workers, the people they serve and their communities from COVID-19. Across the country, these rapid tests have already helped to identify and stop the transmission of over 11,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
This initiative builds on previous successful rapid testing projects supported by the Government of Canada, including through the Creative Destruction Lab Rapid Screening Consortium. Through these projects, we have directly provided more than 1 million rapid tests to screen more than 100,000 close-contact employees across Canada in 58 organizations including Air Canada, Canadian Blood Services, McCain Foods Canada, Sobeys and Teck Resources.
Rapid tests will be available to employers through:
- Shoppers Drug Mart locations in COVID-19 hot spots in Ontario for small- and medium-sized enterprises;
- The Canadian Chamber of Commerce will enable local chambers to distribute rapid tests to smaller organizations, based on the successful StaySafe Rapid Testing Program in Waterloo Region;
- Non-profit, charitable and Indigenous community organizations can pre-register now to access rapid tests through the Canadian Red Cross;
- Since April, larger organizations with close-contact employees have been able to request rapid tests directly through a new federal portal; and
- More federal workplaces where workers are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 can launch workplace screening programs using rapid tests.
These actions respond to the expert recommendations from the Testing and Screening Expert Panel’s first report, and the Industry Advisory Roundtable on COVID-19 Testing, Screening, Tracing and Data Management.
Today’s announcement provides an additional support to communities, building on their current public health efforts. The Government of Canada will continue to secure supply and provide rapid tests to provinces and territories for use in long-term care facilities, schools, close-contact workplaces and businesses.