The Ontario government announced Wednesday it will provide COVID-19 rapid tests to residents free of charge at pop-up sites and select LCBO locations effective immediately in what the province is calling a “holiday testing blitz.”
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement in Toronto alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieren Moore and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones amid rising COVID-19 cases and growing concern over the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
“To provide an additional layer of protection against COVID-19 and variants during the holidays, we’ve launched a holiday testing blitz as part of our winter testing strategy,” Elliott said.
“Starting today, at pop-up locations, such as malls, holiday markets, public libraries and transit hubs, Ontarians will be offered either a take-home rapid test kit or be provided rapid antigen screening on site.”
Take-home rapid tests will be made available at Yorkdale Mall, Scarborough Town Centre, Upper Canada Mall, Canada Square, Rideau Heights Community Centre and Water Park Place, among other locations across the province.
The sites will distribute free take-home rapid antigen test kits, subject to supply, and some will offer asymptomatic rapid antigen screening on-site, according to the government.
For a full list of pop-up testing locations where free rapid tests are being distributed, click here.
The government also said it will make take-home rapid tests available at select LCBO retailers, starting “with the busiest stores this week and with more stores being added in the coming days.” Locations and operating hours will be updated weekly, and no appointments will be required.
In an effort to curb transmission of the Omicron variant, Ford also announced on Wednesday that anyone over the age of 18 would be eligible to book a COVID-19 booster as of Monday and that all venues in the province with a capacity of 1,000 or more would be limited to 50 per cent capacity going forward.
These new measures come at a time when experts have been calling for further restrictions to be implemented to protect the province against the Omicron variant.
Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of the Ontario science advisory table, told CTV News Toronto on Wednesday that without further restrictions implemented, the province could see up to 10,000 daily new cases of COVID-19 by the end of the month.
“This trajectory won’t change without public health measures, and this means that we’re above 10,000 cases a day before New Year’s Eve,” Juni said.
A new report issued Wednesday from Public Health Ontario suggests that the Omicron variant likely already accounts for more than 80 per cent of the COVID-19 cases being confirmed in the province each day.
With files from CP24’s Chris Fox.
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