January 18, 2022

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Fashion, The needs of women

Hundreds line up for COVID rapid tests in Ottawa as Ontario changes testing strategy

Long early-morning lineups for COVID-19 rapid tests will soon be a thing of the past as the province shifts the strategy for distributing the test kits.

Ontario announced new rules for accessing the rapid antigen tests on Thursday afternoon as COVID-19 cases rise across the province, and the tests will no longer be recommended for “one-off” uses, including before social gatherings.

“We are prioritizing the rapid antigen test for highest risk settings. We are working to provide these tests for the most effective use to support safe school opening,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

The pop-up sites at malls, community centres and transit centres across Ontario will end on Jan. 14.

Ontario announced the rapid antigen tests for the most vulnerable sectors will now be recommended for three purposes:

  • Test-to-work purposes to meet critical workforce needs in the highest risk settings
  • For people without symptoms as screening, including health care workers
  • For people with COVID-19 symptoms. If two consecutive RATs, separated by 24-48 hours, are both negative, the symptomatic individual is less likely to be infected

“Ontario’s supply of rapid antigen tests remains limited at present given the global demand for these tests and are being prioritized at present for health care and high-risk settings,” said Moore.

For the second straight morning on Thursday, hundreds of people lined up at Bayshore Shopping Centre for testing kits. Some arrived as early as 3:30 a.m.

“It seems to me that they could be dropping them off in homes and mailing them to people, the way they did the U.K.” said Tom Denison, who got there at 4:15 a.m. “That would make a lot more sense. I still question as to why they haven’t gotten that together yet here.”

Amanda Stevenson, another person in line, said the line immediately grew behind

“It’s difficult. It’s cold, it’s winter, it’s dark, it’s snowing, so it’s a little bit rough,” she said. “It’s kind of frustrating, but you gotta do what you gotta do at this point.”

The long lineups have become the norm at the province-run pop-ups since before Christmas. Sometimes the tests have been handed out either earlier or later than initially scheduled, leaving many people frustrated and empty-handed.

Eastern Ontario medical officer of health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis says the tests will now be used to preserve critical workforces facing growing absentee rates because of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Roumeliotis said people who work in critical services, such as hospital and long-term care workers and first responders, need the tests most because they allow them to return to work earlier.

“I don’t think the non-risk individual who’s not working in essential services requires rapid antigen tests, so I don’t understand why people are lining up at 3 o’clock in the morning,” he said during an interview on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“I think those are going to stop…and they will no longer be distributed to the general public like that. They’ll be distributed to where they’re most needed.”

The province’s changes to the rapid test strategy came a day after the federal government said it will distribute 140 million rapid tests across the country this month — four times the amount handed out in December. Of those 140 million tests, Ontario will receive 54.3 million.

Ontario has procured an additional 65 million tests in December and January.

There are two rapid test handouts scheduled in Ottawa on Friday: one at 9 a.m. at Hazeldean Mall and another at 10 a.m. at the Rideau Centre.