Ontario deploys rapid tests to additional essential workplaces

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Rapid COVID-19 test kits are being sent to additional workplace across Ontario, after they were successfully used in a select number of settings including long-term care homes, retirement homes, congregate care settings, First Nations communities and many essential workplaces.

“The use of rapid tests are real gamechangers as they provide results in a matter of minutes instead of hours or days,” said Premier Doug Ford. “It’s important to get them out the door as quickly as possible to provide an added layer of protection for our frontline workers and vulnerable citizens, especially those in rural and remote areas of the province.”

Ontario has provided approximately two million rapid antigen tests and 175,000 rapid diagnostic tests to essential workplaces and highly vulnerable settings like long-term care homes and retirement homes. At scale, the province will be deploying approximately one million tests per week across targeted sectors.

The plan is to complete up to 300,000 COVID-19 tests per week for asymptomatic staff in key sectors such as manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain, mining, construction and food processing.

“Our government is committed to providing Ontarians with more access to innovative testing options to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Christine Elliott, minister of health. “Based on our success to date, we continue to expand the use of rapid tests to protect patients, long-term care residents, and our frontline and essential workers.”

In addition to essential workplaces, Ontario is providing rapid antigen tests to other targeted settings across the province as part of its Provincial Antigen Screening Program. This includes:

More than 905,000 rapid antigen tests have been deployed to 455 long-term care homes, and going forward, the province will provide approximately 385,000 tests per week for asymptomatic staff, support workers, essential caregivers, students and volunteers.

“It is imperative that we help maintain essential manufacturers and supply chains that keep clean water flowing, keep food on the table and keep the lights on,” said Vic Fedeli, minister of economic development, job creation and trade. “Rapid testing for employees in our most at-risk and critical industries is essential for the safety of Ontario’s workforce and for the swift recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Working with a broad range of congregate care settings to onboard interested organizations to deploy rapid antigen tests in the coming days and weeks, including to residential mental health, adult and children’s residences, supportive housing and other congregate living settings.

As announced on February 1, Ontario is further expanding asymptomatic and symptomatic testing to schools that are resuming in-person learning. To support school reopening, over 4,000 ID NOW rapid diagnostic tests have been distributed to assessment centres for the rapid testing of symptomatic children in areas where turnaround times for results are above target.

“We recognize that testing is critical in the prevention of the spread of COVID-19,” said Ernie Hardeman, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “As essential industry workplaces, I strongly encourage agri-food supply chain businesses to work with the Ministry of Health to participate in the rapid testing for their workers, including agri-food workers.”

The province continues to ensure that anyone who needs a test can get a test and receive their results as quickly as possible. Anyone who falls within the current Provincial Testing Guidance should continue to seek publicly funded testing, available at participating pharmacies, specimen collection centres, and assessment centres. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should get tested at an assessment centre.

A rapid antigen test (also known as a point-of-care test) can be performed anywhere (i.e. on-site, at the place of employment) by a health professional and does not require shipping a specimen to a lab for processing. It takes approximately 15 minutes to yield a result.

Frequent screening with rapid antigen tests increases the chances of early identification of cases in otherwise asymptomatic individuals.

The Panbio and BD Veritor tests use antigen testing with a nasopharyngeal, nasal, deep nasal, combined throat and dual nares swabs (for Panbio) and nasal swabs (for BD Veritor). Antigen testing detects specific proteins from the virus to screen and identify people who need further testing.

The ID NOW test uses molecular testing with a nasal, nasopharyngeal or throat swab. Molecular testing detects genetic material of COVID-19 to diagnose people with symptoms.

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