Vaccination coverage is high and increasing, but international evidence shows that sustained public health measures are needed to prevent resurgence of COVID-19 driven by Variants of Concern (VOC) especially in non-and under-vaccinated populations. Testing, screening, tracing and isolation remain critical for monitoring levels of COVID-19 in the community, monitoring variants of concern as well as detecting and managing outbreaks.
Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced that more than 2000 local pharmacies have registered to distribute rapid antigen tests to small and medium-sized businesses and non-profit organizations – this includes independent pharmacies, Rexall, Sobeys and Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Increasing local distribution points of rapid antigen tests makes it easier for small and medium-sized organizations (SMOs) to implement workplace screening for their frontline employees and those returning to work in person. The Government of Canada is providing free rapid tests for this initiative; however, pharmacies may charge a small handling fee for each box of 25 tests.
Along with other public health measures such as mask wearing, hand hygiene, and vaccination, rapid testing is an important layer of protection against COVID-19. It can be used as a screening tool to help protect workers, families and communities while helping keep workplaces safe and the economy running. Rapid tests can be done easily and safely at work to help identify people who may be infected with COVID-19, but have no symptoms. Individuals can get results in as little as 15 minutes.
The Government of Canada is expanding the distribution of free rapid tests through a one-stop portal by making it easier for SMOs to find a local pharmacy that is distributing rapid antigen tests in their community. SMOs in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario will be given the option of obtaining tests a pharmacy.
Today’s announcement provides additional support to communities, building on their current public health efforts. The Government of Canada continues to secure and provide rapid tests to provinces and territories for use in long-term care facilities, schools and workplaces.