May 7, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Health Canada
Testing and screening, in combination with personal public health measures and vaccination, are important tools to protect Canadians and help limit the spread of COVID-19. Some studies suggest that up to 50% of COVID-19 transmission could be caused by people without symptoms. Testing and screening are important tools to help reduce the risk of outbreaks, quickly identify and isolate cases, and limit spreading in workplaces and the community.
Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health and the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, are encouraging businesses and organizations to apply for free rapid tests for workplace screening projects. Workplace screening is another layer of protection for workers, the people they serve and their communities from COVID-19. Across the country, these rapid tests have already helped to identify and stop the transmission of over 11,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
This initiative builds on previous successful rapid testing projects supported by the Government of Canada, including through the Creative Destructions Lab Rapid Screening Consortium. Through these projects, we have directly provided more than 1 million rapid tests to screen more than 100,000 close-contact employees across Canada in 58 organizations including Air Canada, Canadian Blood Services, McCain Foods Canada, Sobeys and Teck Resources.
Rapid tests will be available to employers through:
- Shoppers Drug Mart locations in COVID-19 hot spots in Ontario for small- and medium-sized enterprises.
- The Canadian Chamber of Commerce will enable local chambers to distribute rapid tests to smaller organizations, based on the successful StaySafe Rapid Testing Program in Waterloo Region;
- Non-profit, charitable and Indigenous community organizations can pre-register now to access rapid tests through the Canadian Red Cross;
- Since April, larger organizations with close-contact employees have been able to request rapid tests directly through a new federal portal; and
- More federal workplaces where workers are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 can launch workplace screening programs using rapid tests.
These actions respond to the expert recommendations from the Testing and Screening Expert Panel’s first report, and the Industry Advisory Roundtable on COVID-19 Testing, Screening, Tracing and Data Management.
Today’s announcement provides an additional support to communities, building on their current public health efforts. The Government of Canada will continue to secure supply and provide rapid tests to provinces and territories for use in long-term care facilities, schools, close-contact workplaces and businesses.
“There’s no magic bullet in the fight against COVID-19. We need layers of protection to keep Canadians safe. By providing testing and screening tools to these workplaces, we’re providing organizations with another layer to keep their staff and communities is safe. These programs complement existing public health measures, benefitting families, communities and workplaces. By giving Canadian businesses more access to rapid antigen testing kits, we can detect cases earlier, which will help slow the spread and save lives.”
The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
“As we continue to fight COVID-19, rapid screening is an important tool to protect Canadians’ health and safety, and help our businesses of all sizes operate safely. Today’s announcement ensuring rapid screening is more accessible is just one of many ways our government is taking a Team Canada approach-working with provincial and municipal partners to protect Canadians and support workers and workplaces through the pandemic and to ensure they can safely operate and have a strong recovery.”
The Honourable Mary Ng
Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade
“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, our Government has been working closely with industries to find innovative ways to protect the health and safety of Canadians. Today’s announcement is important for Canadians as it will allow businesses to access the right tools to ramp up rapid testing and screening activities within their workplace. This will help businesses protect their employees and customers while we work to safely reopen the economy.”
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne
Minister Innovation, Science and Industry
“The Government of Canada is implementing a multi-layered strategy and response to the COVID-19 pandemic through a combination of efforts. In addition to obtaining vaccines, personal protective equipment and other supplies, we continue to procure rapid tests to increase Canada’s testing and screening capacity, and reduce the spread of the virus.”
The Honourable Anita Anand
Minister of Public Services and Procurement
Rapid antigen tests-also referred to as rapid screens or rapid tests-are easy to administer, and produce results in as little as 15 minutes. They are most effective at identifying those with high viral load and high transmission potential. A positive rapid antigen test result should be confirmed with a diagnostic polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test by local public health authorities.
The Government of Canada has received nearly 42 million rapid tests and shipped 26.7 million rapid tests to provinces and territories, as well as over 1 million directly to organizations for workplace screening.
The Government of Canada recently invested $430,000 in Waterloo Region’s StaySafe Rapid Testing Program to provide free rapid screening tests for local workers of small and medium-sized businesses with a target of 3,000 tests per week.
In Budget 2021, the Government of Canada announced the extension of emergency support programs including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, and Lockdown Support to finish the fight against COVID-19.
In 2020, the Government of Canada provided $4.28 billion via the Safe Restart Agreement to provinces and territories to increase capacity to conduct testing, perform contact tracing and share public health data. This funding provided a foundation to help jurisdictions slow the spread of the virus.
PHAC recently updated the Interim guidance on the use of rapid antigen detection tests for the identification of SARS-CoV-2 infection and provided guidance for Long-Term Care Homes. These guidance documents are based on the latest science and are meant to guide provinces and territories in their testing and screening efforts.
In January 2021, the Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel released its first report entitled Priority Strategies to Optimize Testing and Screening for COVID-19 in Canada. Recent reports focus on testing and screening in long-term care facilities and schools.
The Industry Advisory Roundtable on Testing, Screening, Tracing and Data Management has also provided advice via a report optimizing testing in workplaces to help protect workers in all-sized businesses and a second report on task shifting and self-administration for workplace screening programs.