Ontario to receive 54.3 million rapid COVID tests from federal government

WATCH ABOVE: Feds promise 140M rapid tests in weeks amid high demand.

Ontario will receive 54.3 million rapid antigen tests from the federal government to be used for “test to work” and screening purposes, the provincial government says.

The news comes just a day after the federal government announced 140 million rapid antigen tests would be sent to the provinces and territories in January.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Canada’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the tests would be allocated on a per-capita basis.

Read more:

Ontario has ‘not yet received’ delivery schedule for rapid tests from feds: premier’s office

A briefing document released by the Ontario government on Thursday, said Ontario requested an allocation of 68.6 million rapid antigen tests for January, but said the federal government has only committed to providing 54.3 million.

The provincial government said the remaining portion of Ontario’s allocation, around 14 million tests, is “still pending.”

Of the 54.3 million tests the federal government has committed to provide, the province says only 0.15 million have been delivered.

Another nine million have been scheduled for delivery, the document said, while delivery dates for the remaining 45 million tests have “yet to be scheduled.”

Provincial recommendations

The province has also updated its recommendations for who should use rapid antigen tests.

Provincial health officials now say the tests should be used for “test-to-work” purposes, to meet “critical workforce needs in the highest risk settings.”

Officials say test-to-work is a strategy to “support work-self isolation in critical work shortages, in which staff are able to return to work when they would otherwise be on self-isolation at home.”

The tests should also be used to screen people without COVID-19 symptoms.

The document said “frequent, repeated antigen testing for people who are asymptomatic and without known exposure to someone with COVID-19, with the goal of identifying cases that are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic.”

Officials said this includes healthcare workers subject to Directive 6, which requires unvaccinated staff working in high-risk settings to undertake regular rapid antigen testing – twice a week at minimum.

The province said, though, that rapid antigen tests are not recommended for “one-off use” such as before a social event, due to the risk of false negatives.

Read more:

Canada sending 140M rapid COVID-19 tests to provinces, territories in January

Lastly, the province says the rapid antigen tests should be used for people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Provincial officials said a positive rapid antigen test is “highly indicative” that a person with symptoms has COVID-19, and the individual and their household are required to self-isolate.

However, the document says if a person with symptoms takes two consecutive rapid antigen tests separated by 24 to 48 hours and both negative, the province said the person is “less likely to be infected, and the individual is advised to self-isolate until symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours.”

If the symptoms are gastrointestinal, provincial officials say the person should isolate for 48 hours.

The document also says if a person receives a positive on a rapid antigen tests, they are no longer required to confirm with a PCR or rapid molecular test.

The positive rapid antigen test does not need to be reported to public health, either, the province says.

Prioritizing rapid antigen tests

The province says the distribution of the rapid antigen tests are being prioritized for the “most vulnerable sectors.”

The tests are being prioritized for high priority settings, such as long-term care and retirement homes, hospitals, paramedics, shelters and other congregate care settings.

First Nation and Indigenous communities and organizations have also been identified as high priority settings.

Rapid antigen tests have also been prioritized for education settings for symptomatic testing and screen testing, the document says.

On Monday, more than 700,000 rapid antigen tests were deployed to high priority sectors, the document says.

An additional 1.7 million tests are planned to be distributed by the end of the week, the province says.

By the numbers

To date, 54.3 million rapid antigen tests have been deployed in Ontario. Of these tests, 99 per cent have been used, the province says.

Here’s where the tests have been deployed:

  • 5.7 million have been deployed to essential industries.
  • 22.61 million were deployed to health and congregate care settings
  • 17.48 million tests have been deployed to education and child-care settings.
  • 7.30 million tests have been deployed to 128 Chambers of Commerce.

Further, the province says 1.2 million tests were distributed through its holiday pop-up initiative.

The document said as of Monday, there were 380,000 rapid antigen tests remaining in the province’s inventory.

The province says it expects demand for the rapid antigen testing to increase from around one million a week to over 18 million per week through January.

In order to meet the growing demand and mitigate supply constraints, the province says it has procured an additional 65 million rapid antigen tests in December and January, bringing the total provincial procurements to 85 million.

In an email to Global News on Thursday, Health Canada said the federal  government has procured “significant volumes of tests for January.”

“We continue to work with province, territories and partner organizations to make rapid testing available to more Canadians in the coming weeks and months,” the email read.

The agency said timing of January deliveries are “in the process of being confirmed with suppliers.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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