The Ontario government has announced a single Ottawa pop-up location where people can pick up a free COVID-19 rapid antigen test or take a test on site over a four-day period this week.
Rapid antigen test kits have become a hot commodity in recent weeks as people seek to screen themselves and their family members ahead of holiday gatherings — which are limited to 10 people indoors.
Unlike the gold standard PCR tests which are offered through assessment centres, hospitals and other health-care settings and have to be sent to a lab for analysis, rapid antigen tests offer a quick way to detect a potential infection.
Rapid tests — similar to at-home pregnancy tests — are a do-it-yourself version that shows results in around 15 minutes.
Initial public offerings quickly spoken for
Earlier this week, the province announced a "holiday testing blitz" in which it plans to give out nearly two million rapid tests from now to mid-January at malls, city centres and LCBOs.
Just over 200,000 rapid test kits — each containing five tests, and therefore totalling just over one million tests — were quickly gobbled up by visitors at participating LCBOs on Friday.
More tests are expected to be dispersed over the coming days, including at 10 sites in Ottawa.
While the full list of Ottawa locations has yet to be confirmed, the province's holiday testing page was updated Saturday to include the Minto Recreation Complex at 3500 Cambrian Rd., in Ottawa's west end.
Tests will be offered at the centre starting at 7 a.m. between Tuesday and Friday.
Province facing limited supply
Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer had health, announced last week that Ottawa's first shipment of non-LCBO tests was expected to arrive on Dec. 21. Ontario Premier Doug Ford then said the province is expecting another 10 million more tests on Dec. 27.
It remains unclear how many of those 10 million tests will go to the holiday blitz meant for the general public versus prioritized settings such as schools, vulnerable workplaces and health-care settings.
In an email to CBC on Saturday, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said the government recognizes there is significant demand for rapid tests.
"That said, Ontario has a limited supply of rapid tests and every single test the province has received from the federal government is out the door to thousands of workplaces, hospitals, home and community care settings, long-term care homes, schools and child-care centres on top of the many pop-up sites across the province," the spokesperson wrote.