N.L. making COVID-19 rapid tests widely available for first time since pandemic hit

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador health officials are making COVID-19 rapid tests widely and freely available to the public for the first time since the pandemic began.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald told reporters today that officials will mail two test kits to every family in the province.

Test kits will also be available at provincial libraries and at the constituency offices of members of the legislature.

Previously, the province had issued test kits to families with school-aged children.

Otherwise, residents had to purchase rapid test kits at pharmacies and drugstores, often for more than $20 each.

Fitzgerald says making rapid tests available to everyone will allow people to make better decisions about their risks of contracting and spreading the virus.

Meanwhile, the province is not seeing the early arrival of influenza season or the high cases of respiratory viruses reported in other provinces such as Ontario and Quebec, she said.

That could change, Fitzgerald said, and she urged residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu. Masks are still recommended, and residents should wear them if they think they're at risk of being exposed to a respiratory infection, she said.

"The recommendation may become stronger as time goes on and as we see changes," Fitzgerald said, adding that she doesn't believe the current levels of respiratory illness in the province warrant another mask mandate.

"Before you start infringing on people's rights, that you have to have the evidence to support doing so and that there's really no other way to mitigate that risk," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 15, 2022.

The Canadian Press