Government of Canada makes rapid antigen tests available to more small and medium-sized organizations through new pharmacy partners
Increasing rapid antigen testing in workplaces to screen asymptomatic employees for COVID-19 will help identify cases and limit the spread.
August 13, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Health Canada
Vaccination coverage is high and increasing, but international evidence shows that sustained public health measures are needed to prevent resurgence of COVID-19 driven by Variants of Concern (VOC) especially in non-and under-vaccinated populations. Testing, screening, tracing and isolation remain critical for monitoring levels of COVID-19 in the community, monitoring variants of concern as well as detecting and managing outbreaks.
Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced that more than 2000 local pharmacies have registered to distribute rapid antigen tests to small and medium-sized businesses and non-profit organizations – this includes independent pharmacies, Rexall, Sobeys and Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Increasing local distribution points of rapid antigen tests makes it easier for small and medium-sized organizations (SMOs) to implement workplace screening for their frontline employees and those returning to work in person. The Government of Canada is providing free rapid tests for this initiative; however, pharmacies may charge a small handling fee for each box of 25 tests.
Along with other public health measures such as mask wearing, hand hygiene, and vaccination, rapid testing is an important layer of protection against COVID-19. It can be used as a screening tool to help protect workers, families and communities while helping keep workplaces safe and the economy running. Rapid tests can be done easily and safely at work to help identify people who may be infected with COVID-19, but have no symptoms. Individuals can get results in as little as 15 minutes.
The Government of Canada is expanding the distribution of free rapid tests through a one-stop portal by making it easier for SMOs to find a local pharmacy that is distributing rapid antigen tests in their community. SMOs in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario will be given the option of obtaining tests a pharmacy.
Today’s announcement provides additional support to communities, building on their current public health efforts. The Government of Canada continues to secure and provide rapid tests to provinces and territories for use in long-term care facilities, schools and workplaces.
“The Government of Canada is putting the health and safety of Canadians first. We are proud to be working with our partners to support workplaces and their employees so that they can safely re-open and operate. We are all in this together. Along with continuing to be vigilant with public health measures, and as vaccines continue to roll out across Canada, testing and screening are an added layer of protection and are critical to help slow the spread of COVID-19, and safely reopen the economy.”
The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
“Giving businesses access to rapid tests kits quickly through a pharmacy portal is a welcome addition to the various provincial programs targeted at stopping spread of COVID-19. This initiative complements Ontario sources for free rapid testing kits, such as the Provincial Antigen Screening Program portal or by contacting a participating local chamber of commerce or board of trade. We can all continue to do our part to stop the spread and save lives.”
The Honourable Vic Fedeli
Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Ontario
“Ontario small businesses are the heart of our neighbourhoods and the economic foundation of our communities. Providing small businesses greater access to rapid test kits through a pharmacy portal is a welcome addition to Ontario's free rapid test initiatives for businesses. Added together, these programs are good for the economy and help keep workers and families safe.”
The Honourable Nina Tangri
Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, Ontario
“Saskatchewan is committed to supporting small and medium-sized businesses as they manage ongoing COVID-19 challenges. This initiative will help businesses easily access rapid testing for their employees to improve safety for staff and customers along with helping prevent outbreaks.”
The Honourable Paul Merriman
Saskatchewan Minister of Health
Rapid antigen tests—also referred to as rapid screens or rapid tests—are easy to administer, and produce results in as little as 15 minutes. They are most effective at identifying those with high viral load and high transmission potential. A presumptive positive rapid antigen test result should be confirmed in accordance with provincial guidance.
As of August 1, 2021, the Government of Canada has distributed 2.5 million rapid tests to support screening in workplaces, which includes 1.77 million tests directly to 154 organizations, 250,000 tests for the Canadian Red Cross to provide to registered charities, non-profit and Indigenous organizations, and 500,000 tests to pharmacies to provide to small and medium-sized organizations.
The Government of Canada has 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 Public Health Agency of Canada recently updated the Interim guidance on the use of rapid antigen detection tests for the identification of SARS-CoV-2 infection and provided guidance for Long-Term Care Homes, and updated the Pan-Canadian COVID-19 Testing and Screening Guidance and issued a report on Testing for COVID-19 in vaccinated populations. These guidance documents are based on the latest science and are meant to guide provinces and territories in their testing and screening efforts.
In January 2021, the Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel released its first report titled Priority Strategies to Optimize Testing and Screening for COVID-19 in Canada. Recent reports focus on testing and screening in long-term care facilities, schools and self-testing for COVID-19.
The Industry Advisory Roundtable on Testing, Screening, Tracing and Data Management has also provided advice via a report optimizing testing in workplaces to help protect workers in all-sized businesses, a second report on task shifting and self-administration for workplace screening programs and third report on taking stock and looking forward.
- Government of Canada increases access to COVID-19 rapid testing for workers
- Rapid tests for COVID-19 screening in the workplace
- COVID-19 Testing, Screening, and Contact Tracing
- Industry Advisory Roundtable on COVID-19 Testing, Screening, Tracing and Data
- Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel
- Safe Restart Agreement
- COVID-19: Digital tools and apps for staying healthy
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
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