With a record breaking number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario, many in the province are bemoaning the fact that finding a rapid-antigen test (RAT) or booking an appointment for an PCR isn’t an easy feat.
On Wednesday, Ottawa announced it would distribute 140 million RATs across Canada in the month of January. That’s four times the number that was distributed in the country over the month of December. However, in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford has prioritized disturbing the RATS to places like “workplaces, hospitals, home and community care, long-term care and retirement homes, as well as schools and child care centres.”
We’re continuing to get rapid tests out to thousands of workplaces, hospitals, home and community care, long-term care and retirement homes, as well as schools and child care centres.
Find a rapid test near you: https://t.co/wn15dlhKXx pic.twitter.com/ckyjedttjG
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) January 6, 2022
On Thursday, the Ontario government announced additional details on a new rapid testing strategy. It said RATs would be recommended for three specific categories of people. The first would be part of "test to work" strategies for employees that are in high-risk settings, like hospitals, long-term-care centres and retirement homes, as well as schools, in order to allow people who would otherwise have to self-isolate, to return to work early with a negative result.
The second group is for people without symptoms but for screening and for people with symptoms who were previously expected to get a PCR test before Ontario's PCR capacity became overwhelmed. The RATs are not recommended for one-off testing, such as taking one before a social event, due to the risk of false negatives.
Finally, RATs are recommended for people with symptoms. If a test shows the person is positive, they and their family members must self-isolate. If two consecutive RATs, taken between 24-48 hours, are both negative, the symptomatic person is less likely to be infected, but are advised to self-isolate until symptoms are shown to improve for at least 24 hours.
Anyone who tests positive with a RAT are no longer required to confirm their status with a PCR test.
In late December, Ontario’s guidelines on eligibility and protocols for testing changed as COVID-19 numbers rapidly spiked. Currently, publicly funded PCR testing is only available to those considered high risk, who are symptomatic, and/or at risk of severe illness from the virus, as well as workers and residents in high risk settings. People who have mild symptoms are being asked not to seek testing.
A list of those who are eligible for testing can be found here.
While the Ontario government addressed the new testing protocols, many on social media expressed their frustrations about the lack of ways to easily access a rapid test.
This morning -18C, I joined a massive lineup at Masonville Mall in London Ontario to get a box of Rapid Antigen Tests. I joined old people with walkers, other healthcare workers, moms having to bring their children out in this cold and more in a line that circled the mall. #1
— JoAnneVandierendonck (@nanavirtuoso) January 6, 2022
I applied for the Ontario gov’s small business rapid tests program Dec 20, was accepted, but no pickup slots were available until after New Years. Now this email today.
For some reason my reaction upon receiving this was to laugh hysterically: pic.twitter.com/8BO3NjGr75
— Justin Tang (@jstntng) January 5, 2022
@JustinTrudeau Please specify precisely to whom free rapid tests are being sent to in Ontario; Is the expectation that @fordnation distribute them to Ontario residents? #cdnpoli #onpoli #FordFailedThePeople
— Brian Goudge (@BriaMari) January 5, 2022
Does my husband have covid? 🤷♀️
Do I have covid? 🤷♀️
Do we have to assume we do? YES
Do we have to isolate? YES
Can we go and get tested? NO
Why? Because Ontario isn’t testing anymore
And our town doesn’t have any Rapid tests 😡 @fordnation #ontariolockdown #COVID #Ontario
— Lila - with Celiac 🪶🍁☘️🐈⬛ 🇨🇦 (@Dooganey) January 6, 2022
Rapid tests were available in other provinces and handed out at schools, grocery stores, etc. Why not in Ontario? Why wasn’t there enough supply leading up to the school year and winter season? Why are private businesses like Shoppers the only way to get tested (at $40/test)?
— Shawn_Anderson (@Shawn_Anderson) January 6, 2022
Ontario ... Need to start today on a plan to have significant ongoing supply ( local mfg ) of N95’s / rapid tests / 10 year medical manpower plan aligned to educational system / grants for at home and commercial air purifiers etc . Let’s develop new playbook
— Whatever (@chillandcarryon) January 6, 2022
The federal government is sending millions of Rapid Antigen Tests to Ontario for the PCs to distribute. I bet Shoppers is thrilled, cuz their stock must be running low.
— Eric Woolfe (@ericwoolfe) January 6, 2022
Early childhood educators and daycare workers in Ontario deserve better. They work with unvaccinated and mostly unmasked children, providing care that does not allow for physical distancing, but yet they have no access to PCR or rapid antigen COVID tests.
— Dr. Arij Al Chawaf 💉x 3 (@ArijAlChawaf) January 6, 2022
I really do not think it ever was or is impossible to send a box of rapid CoVid tests to every registered address in Ontario and pay for it with our tax dollars #onpoli
— MsLinesandCurves (@lynes_christine) January 6, 2022
Everyone should know that they have changed testing guidelines & only certain groups of people are eligible for testing. Rapid tests are essentially the only way to find out if you are +. #ontariolockdown #Ontario #covid #rapidtests
— Melanie Cloutier-Bordeleau (Mel) (@melbordeleau) January 6, 2022
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath said "finding a rapid test in Ontario right now is like a Where's Waldo exercise," adding she had "no confidence whatsoever" in the premier's distribution plans.
"Finding a rapid test in #Ontario right now is like a Where's Waldo exercise"
The federal government is delivering 140M rapid tests across Canada this month, but @OntarioNDP leader Andrea Horwath says she has "no confidence whatsoever" in Doug Ford's distribution plans.#ONpoli pic.twitter.com/WTc6ukbwew
— OMNI Television (@OMNITelevision) January 6, 2022
Rudy Cuzzetoo, MPP for Mississauga-Lakeshore noted on Twitter that Ontario was the only province to procure their own supply of rapid tests, which they distribute to the general public, as well as places like hospitals and long-term care homes.
Ontario is the only province that has procured our own supply of rapid tests. We continue to distribute every single test that we receive (or procure ourselves) to the general public, hospitals, long-term care homes, essential workplaces, childcare settings, and schools.
— Rudy Cuzzetto, MPP (@RudyCuzzetto) January 6, 2022