It took an hour for the St. Laurent Shopping Centre’s pop-up rapid antigen test site to run out of kits to distribute — barely making a dent in the long lineup of people that wrapped around the mall (and then some) that started hours earlier.
Residents from all over Ottawa descended upon the mall bright and early on Thursday, December 30 — some as early as 6 a.m., despite doors only opening at 8 a.m.
For grandmother Nisha, her decision to wait in the line for a test came down to wanting to see her grandson, who she hasn’t seen in two months.
“We missed Christmas last year, and this year we cannot see our family, so I’m hoping this year that I can see one of my grandchildren who has asthma,” she said. “I haven’t seen him since November and I’d really like to see him. He’s very young — he’s eight years old so he only has his first shots. It’s been a very miserable 22 months.”
Linda Marshland’s reason for being at the pop-up site on Friday, however, came down to keeping herself and others safe.
“I took a PCR test and I wanted to just keep on top of it and keep testing myself at intervals to make sure I’m OK.” Marshland, who is full vaccinated, said. “I’m ahead of the game. I just want to stay safe.”
While the number of people in line is unknown, CityNews Ottawa observed that the line had contoured the entirety of the 867,275 square foot building, and then some.
Most people came with a second person, and were lined up side-by-side, but maintained a 2m distance from the people in front and behind them.
“I have never seen St. Laurent shopping centre this way,” a woman in line, whose name was not shared, said. “It’s very interesting and something new for us and everybody’s great.”
“There are good senses of humour. All that’s missing are the buskers — they could do well,” she joked.
Only one test kit per person would be handed out, as is the same with all other pop-up sites around Ontario.
Everyone wore masks — some doubled up — and waited for the doors at entrance one (near Starbucks and Shoppers Drug Mart) to open, which ended up opening at 8 a.m. on the dot.
It was clear to mall security, however, that there would not be enough tests to go around and a member of the security team told CityNews Ottawa that they were nervous at how the crowd would react when they were out of kits.
However, when the team announced that all tests were gone, the remaining people in line were disappointed, but overall cooperative.
It was not disclosed how many tests were available for distribution at the St. Laurent location.
Another pop-up location also took place at the Walter Baker Recreation Centre at 100 Malvern Dr. in Nepean at 7 a.m. on Thursday.
However, those who weren’t able to get their hands on a test kit on Thursday can always try again on Friday, December 31 at 7 a.m. at the Walter Baker Recreation Centre.
No further pop-up sites have been announced for Ottawa as of Thursday at about 10 a.m.
New locations are expected to be posted to the Ontario government’s website on Friday.