The Ontario government has deployed COVID-19 rapid tests to rural and remote areas and COVID hotspots to speed up screening and help manage outbreaks across the province.
“These new rapid tests are gamechangers in the fight against COVID-19,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford. “This new technology can provide test results in hours, even minutes, instead of days. We’re deploying them as quickly as possible to protect patients, long-term care residents, and the frontline heroes who care for them.”
Ontario has received approximately 98,000 ID NOW tests to be used in hospitals and assessment centres in rural and remote communities and to aid in outbreak investigations in areas of high transmission. Two hospitals are using ID NOW, with 20 more hospitals preparing to launch rapid testing.
Tests continue to be distributed in Simcoe Muskoka, Southwestern Ontario and Eastern Ontario. Ontario is working will local public health units to deploy rapid testing in Toronto and Peel. The program will be expanded to other areas beginning in December. It is unclear if that will include the Niagara Region but we will update via Niagara Info when announced.
Ontario has also received 1.2 million Panbio rapid antigen tests to screen staff in long-term homes and other workplaces. These tests have already been given to six long-term care operators to be deployed in 30 long-term care homes, 27 retirement homes, eight hospitals, and 11 industry partners. The province is expecting 1.5 million Panbio tests by the end of December.
Panbio tests will also be used in a pilot program for participating employers in the private, public, and non-profit sectors to provide insight into the value of using this screening in a variety of workplaces. This will help inform further decisions on reopening the economy.
Both ID NOW and Panbio tests are new and will be evaluated and used based on the guidance from Health Canada.