To further support the province’s cautious easing of public health measures, the Ontario government is expanding access to free rapid testing kits to the general public for at-home use.
As a result of the province’s direct procurement, the provincial government said that Ontario will be distributing five million rapid tests each week for eight weeks through pharmacy and grocery locations across the province, as well as 500,000 each week through community partners in vulnerable communities. In total, the province is making 44 million rapid tests available to the public for free over the coming weeks, according to a news release, dated Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022.
“As we continue to carefully ease public health measures, rapid tests are providing another layer of protection and offer the public an additional tool to confidently do the things they love, like visiting family or dining at their favourite local restaurant,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “In addition to the millions of rapid tests deployed each week to support priority settings, including hospitals, long-term care homes and schools, working with our retail and community partners we are increasing access to at-home rapid tests.”
Starting today, Wednesday, Feb. 9, over 2,300 participating grocery and pharmacy locations will provide free rapid tests while supplies last, with a limit of one box of five tests per household per visit, according to the release. Reportedly, participating retailers will receive additional supply from the province each week and have the ability to determine how tests are distributed in order to best serve the community, including through appointment bookings, at checkout or through online orders. A list of participating retailers as well as information on how retail locations are distributing rapid test kits can be found at Ontario.ca/rapidtest.
According to the province, the following retailers will have access to free rapid tests:
- Barriefield Pharmasave – 760 County Road 15
- Bayridge Pharmacy – 2790 Princess Street
- Costco Pharmacy – 1015 Centennial Drive
- Division Street Pharmacy – 472 Division Street
- Elliott Drug Mart – 12-400 Elliott Avenue
- Food Basics – 1225 Princess Street
- Food Basics – 1300 Bath Road
- Food Basics – 1200 Highway 15
- Food Basics – 33 Barrack Street
- Gardiners Pharmacy – 9B-500 Gardiners Road
- Loblaws – 1048 Midland Avenue
- Loblaws – 1100 Princess Street
- Medix Pharmacy – 2392 Princess Street
- Metro – 310 Barrie Street
- Metro – 460 Gardiners Road
- Metro – 775 Bayridge Drive
- Milford Pharmacy – 728 Milford Drive
- Pharma Plus – D101-1036 Princess Street
- Quarry Medical Pharmacy – 100 Princess Street
- Reddendale Pharmacy – 732 Front Road
- Rexall Pharma Plus – 817 Edgar Street
- Riverdale Pharmacy – 1-1218 Highway 15
- Rx Drug Mart – Clinic Pharmacy – 76 Stuart Street
- Rx Drug Mart – Frontenac Medical – 789 Princess Street
- Rx Drug Mart – Lovell Drugs – 166 Brock Street
- Rx Drug Mart – Medical Arts Rx – 800 Princess Street
- Shoppers Drug Mart – 1011 Princess Street
- Shoppers Drug Mart – 136 Princess Street
- Shoppers Drug Mart – 100-2437 Princess Street
- Shoppers Drug Mart – 445 Princess Street
- Shoppers Drug Mart – 1875 Bath Road
- Shoppers Drug Mart – 1201 Division Street
- Shoppers Drug Mart – L8B-945 Gardiners Road
- Shoppers Drug Mart – 823 Highway 15
- Shoppers Drug Mart – 11-775 Strand Boulevard
- Specialty Rx Pharmacy – 119 Barrack Street
- Walmart – 1130 Midland Avenue
- West Side Pharmacy & Compounding – 3079 Princess Street
“By providing free access to rapid test kits, the Ontario Government, in partnership with grocery and pharmacy retailers, is reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” said Diane J. Brisebois, President and CEO, Retail Council of Canada. “In addition to getting a third booster shot, community testing acts as a powerful way to reduce the spread of contagion, by diagnosing early and isolating. Today’s support by grocery and pharmacy retailers in delivering test kits to communities shows us all how, working together, we can support the safe reopening of Ontario.”
To support access to tests for communities that have been impacted disproportionately by COVID-19 and face barriers to testing, including language, income and transportation, lead agencies working as part of the High Priority Communities Strategy will be distributing rapid tests through existing local partnerships, such as community centres, community health centres, places of worship, and food banks, the province stated. Lead agencies will also have discretion to provide additional boxes depending on individual circumstances, such as a multi-generational home or an immunocompromised family member, according to the release.
“Providing expanded access to testing for Ontarians will support the province’s cautious approach to easing public health measures,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “While testing is a critical component in our response to COVID-19, vaccination remains the best defence against the virus and its variants. Over the next few months, we need to continue following the public health measures that remain in place and vaccinate those who have yet to receive their doses to protect our communities and health care system capacity.”
Providing expanded access to free rapid testing kits to the general population builds on Ontario’s comprehensive testing strategy focused on the province’s priority sectors and workplaces, the province said. Over 10 million rapid tests are deployed weekly to these sites and any other sector eligible for the Provincial Antigen Screening Program, according to the release. As of Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, the province said that over 75 million rapid antigen tests have been deployed since November 2020, with over 33 million deployed to priority sectors to provide an additional layer of protection for hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes. The province noted that approximately 26 million tests have been deployed to support school and licensed child care settings.
To date, Ontario has directly procured a total of about 157 million rapid tests, including 126 million between December 2021 and January 2022. Ontario continues to also work closely with the federal government to address delays in shipments from Health Canada and is also directly procuring additional rapid tests where possible to ensure continued widespread access to rapid antigen tests for Ontarians, according to the release. Of the 54.3 million rapid tests the federal government committed to provide Ontario in January, the province said that about 36 million have been delivered.