The Ontario government is expanding availability of COVID-19 rapid tests across the province, with 44 million tests being made available in the coming weeks.
Five million rapid tests will be distributed each week for eight weeks through pharmacies and grocery stores, in addition to 500,000 each week through community partners in vulnerable communities, including community centres, community health centres, places of worship and food banks.
Beginning Feb. 9, 2,300 participating grocery stores and pharmacies will provide free rapid tests, while supplies last, with a limit of one box per household per visit. Each box have five tests.
Elliott added that some participating stores will have their own systems for getting a rapid test kit, including ordering online and picking up in store. She stressed that people can be fined for obtaining tests that they do not need and selling them online but Elliott anticipates there won't be much of a "secondary market" because people can get access to the tests "quite readily."
“As we continue to carefully ease public health measures, rapid tests are providing another layer of protection and offer the public an additional tool to confidently do the things they love, like visiting family or dining at their favourite local restaurant,” a statement from Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, reads.
“In addition to the millions of rapid tests deployed each week to support priority settings, including hospitals, long-term care homes and schools, working with our retail and community partners we are increasing access to at-home rapid tests.”
Elliott said there may be situations where people want to see a vulnerable, senior family member and it can be safer for the family to take rapid tests in those circumstances, but stresses that the intended use is not "just to go out and get a test because you want to go to a party."
When asked about Alberta and Saskatchewan moving to drop proof of vaccination measures and masking rules, minister Elliott said there are no current plans for Ontario to drop either of those measures.