Government of Canada Invests in StaySafe™ Rapid Screening Program in Waterloo Region

News release

April 12, 2021 | Waterloo Region, Ontario | Health Canada

We must redouble our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep Canadians safe. To ensure Canadians have access to the tools they need, the Government of Canada has been procuring and distributing screening tools to provinces, territories, and communities across the country. Testing and screening — along with contact tracing, isolation, masking, vaccination and the COVID Alert App — are part of our multi-layered pandemic response.

Today, the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth; on behalf of the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced the launch of the StaySafe COVID-19 Rapid Screening Program in Ontario’s Waterloo Region, through a $430,000 investment from the Safe Restart Agreement.

The StaySafe program will provide free rapid screening tests for local workers of small and medium-sized businesses, with a target of 3,000 rapid tests conducted each week. The program will increase workers’ access to COVID-19 tests, and help detect cases of COVID-19 quickly, before more cases reach workplaces and communities — keeping workers and their families safe.

Work will continue with industries and organizations across the country, including small- and medium-sized businesses and not-for-profits, to expand access to workplace screening initiatives. The best practices learned through this StaySafe initiative will be documented and provided to others so that any region in Canada can quickly stand up a similar screening program.

Screening with rapid tests provides an extra layer of defence against the spread of the virus by identifying people who are not showing symptoms of infection, but may be carrying COVID-19 into their workplaces and communities. These initiatives are an important tool for detecting cases of COVID-19, but are not a substitute from the measures that keep us all safe: physical distancing, wearing a mask, washing our hands, and staying home if we are sick.

The Government of Canada continues its work with partners across the country to ensure that Canadians are safe from COVID-19.


“Workplace screening is an important tool to limit the spread of COVID-19 and help keep workers safe. Through this initiative with the StaySafe Rapid Antigen Screening Program in Waterloo Region, we are providing free workplace screening options to help keep people safe and support businesses reopening in the Region. Working with public health officials, this program builds on current measures in Waterloo Region to keep communities safe.”

The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

"As we continue to fight COVID-19, the StaySafe rapid screening program will play an important role in helping small and medium-sized businesses operate safely in the Waterloo Region. Ensuring workplace testing is more accessible is one of many ways the Government of Canada is taking a Team Canada approach—working with provincial and municipal partners to protect Canadians and support main streets, and the small businesses that form the backbone of our economy during the pandemic. Together, we will get through this and come out the other side even stronger."

The Honourable Mary Ng
Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade

“The StaySafe™ Rapid Antigen Screening Program, is another important measure to keep the people of Waterloo Region safe. It is part of the Government of Canada’s overall strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19. This Program’s outcomes will be documented to provide a foundation, for communities across the country, to stand up similar initiatives. We will build back even better by working with industry, organizations, experts, as well as provinces, territories, regions, and municipalities as the health and safety of Canadian remains our priority and is a shared responsibility.”

The Honourable Bardish Chagger
Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth

“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, our Government has been working closely with industries to find innovative ways to protect the health and safety of Canadians. Today’s announcement is important for Canadians as it will allow businesses to access the right tools to ramp up rapid testing and screening activities within their workplace. This will help businesses protect their employees and customers while we work to safely reopen the economy.”

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne
Minister Innovation, Science and Industry

“Protecting the health and safety of Ontarians is our top priority, and the Ontario government is committed to providing greater flexibility and innovative testing options to stop the spread of COVID-19. Rapid testing in the workplace will add an additional layer of protection for workers and families in Waterloo Region. We continue to work closely with our health care and industry partners to expand the use of rapid tests.”

The Honourable Christine Elliott
Ontario Deputy Premier and Minister of Health

“By expanding rapid testing to small and medium-sized businesses and making it easier to administer, we will be able to keep people working and safe. These measures are essential to further protect Ontario's workforce as we work together towards a swift recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, a stronger and more resilient province."

The Honourable Vic Fedeli
Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade

“The StaySafe program will make rapid screening free and accessible for more employees of small- and medium-sized businesses, and help keep them and their families safe. By supporting this program, we are empowering Ontario’s hardworking businesses with more tools to stay safe and continue supporting our economic recovery."

The Honourable Prabmeet Sarkaria
Ontario Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction

“We know we need a solution to help keep essential workers at small- and medium-sized businesses safe as we work to keep the economy open. With serial self-swabbing, this rapid screening pop-up program is another way to help individuals stay safe and to help workplaces stay open. We’re grateful for the support from all levels of government as well as our regional partners and are proud to be able to offer this model as a playbook for regions across Canada.”

Iain Klugman
President and CEO, Communitech

“Business owners and their employees will be able to self-administer rapid screening. If someone does screen positive, we will see them at our assessment centres to confirm with a diagnostic test. I encourage local businesses who provide essential services within the community to take part in this program as another step to help keep our community safe and thriving.”

Lee Fairclough
President, St. Mary’s General Hospital

“This program will help to combat viruses to spread and will help to keep workplaces safe. We've known from the beginning that rapid screening was a vital tool in the fight against COVID-19. We are so pleased to play a major role in getting rapid screening to small- and medium-sized businesses, along with our regional partners.”

Greg Durocher
President and CEO of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Quick facts

  • In 2020, the Government of Canada provided $4.28 billion via the Safe Restart Agreement to provinces and territories to increase capacity to conduct testing, perform contact tracing and share public health data. This funding provided a foundation to help jurisdictions slow the spread of the virus.

  • The program is a collaboration with the Government of Ontario, Communitech, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo  Chambers of Commerce, and is supported by local community and business associations within Waterloo Region.

  • Starting today three COVID-19 rapid screening buses will provide free testing as they travel through Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge. The Government of Canada has procured and supplied rapid tests to Ontario for use in this workplace initiative.

  • Health Canada has approved 63 safe and effective testing and screening devices. As part of the Safe Restart Funding Agreements, the federal government is providing support to ensure provinces and territories have the capacity to complete more than 200,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic tests each day, nationwide.

  • To date the Government of Canada has shipped more than 41 million rapid tests across the country, including over 11 million to Ontario.

  • Health Canada, working with provinces and territories, developed the Pan-Canadian COVID-19 Testing and Screening Guidance as a foundation for a national testing and screening strategy, and to support provinces and territories in their efforts.

  • The Industry Advisory Roundtable on Testing, Screening, Tracing and Data Management has provided advice via a report optimizing testing in workplaces to help protect workers in businesses of all sizes. The Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel has also provided advice on protecting employees and communities through the use of rapid tests.

  • In February 2021, PHAC issued updated Interim guidance on the use of rapid antigen detection tests for the identification of SARS-CoV-2 infection. This document is based on the latest science and is meant to help guide provinces and territories in their testing and screening efforts.

  • COVID Alert is Canada’s free COVID-19 exposure notification app. It can alert you to possible exposures before you have symptoms. You can also track your symptoms, receive the latest information on COVID-19 and access trusted resources through the Canada COVID-19 App.

Associated links


Cole Davidson
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada

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