Rapid COVID-19 tests coming to Ontario this week

OTTAWA — With rising case numbers and a growing testing backlog, there is hope that rapid COVID-19 tests set to arrive in Ontario this week will bring relief. 

The federal government has a contract to buy 7.9 million of the “ID NOW” tests from Abbott Rapid Diagnostics. On its website, Abbott says results are expected in 13 minutes or less and, unlike other rapid tests approved by Health Canada, it doesn’t have to be analyzed in a lab. 

“It generates an accurate test result in a matter of minutes instead of hours or days,” said Gavin Cloherty, the head of Abbott’s infectious disease research.

The first shipment is expected to arrive in Canada sometime this week, with 2.5 million tests expected to arrive by the end of December. 

Last week, Health Canada approved the first rapid antigen test. The federal government says 8.5 million of Abbott’s Panbio COVID-19 rapid test will arrive by the end of the year with an option to receive 12 million more in 2021, depending on how helpful it is. The results from that test are expected in 15-20 minutes. 

“An antigen test will be [a] valuable tools for residents of remote or isolated communities or in special settings. They could also have a role to play in avoiding large cluster outbreaks when results are rapidly needed to avoid further spread of the virus,” federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said.

Schools, long-term care homes and hospitals are other potential locations where rapid tests may be deployed. 

Just how many tests will be distributed to each province is still to be determined. A number of rapid tests have been approved by Health Canada or are awaiting approval. 

With massive lineups at testing centres, critics, including Ontario’s premier, have said the federal government was too slow to approve these rapid tests.

Air Canada has ordered 25,000 rapid test kits for voluntary employee testing. 

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