Canadians across the country are rushing for rapid COVID-19 tests amid the spread of the Omicron variant, only to find limited supplies and confusing deployments.
Queues at Ontario Liquor Stores (LCBOs) are commonplace during the holiday season, but many places across the province on Friday were looking for testing.
The provincial government has said that two million rapid tests will be available for free at pop-up test sites in high-traffic environments, including certain malls, retail stores, holiday markets, public libraries and transit centers during the holidays, as well. only at certain LCBO Locations.
However, David Brennan arrived at an LCBO branch in Ottawa just before 9 a.m. ET to learn that none were available yet.
âThe parking lot was crowded,â he said. “There were audible moans of disappointment as the guy with the sign came out. It all sounded very improvised and dystopian.”
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The Department of Health’s “vacation pop-up” web page and LCBO press materials had indicated that the tests would be available in LCBOs starting Friday.
By the end of Friday morning, shipments had arrived at some locations and a select few were able to pass testing before the LCBO announced on Twitter at 7:21 p.m. ET that its supply had run out.
Shortages have also been reported in Alberta, where the provincial government says some pharmacies and health service sites in Alberta are now distributing tests.
Mohamed Elfishawi, owner of two pharmacies in Edmonton, said the lines at his stores were “crazy huge.”
âWe got tons of calls from people who wanted it,â he said. Elfishaw said he ordered 1,000 kits for each of his pharmacies but received less than half of what he requested.
At 9 a.m. MT, Alberta Health Services said its Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Pincher Creek and Coaldale sites were already out of stock due to “very high demand.”
âI think it’s great that the key element is rapid testing,â said Sarah Mackey, a volunteer with Vaccine Hunters Alberta. “It’s a positive thing, but I wish it didn’t come at the cost of more stress for pharmacists and more stress for people in line.”
It was a bumpy deployment day, Mackey said. She said the group of volunteers had heard from pharmacies that some deliveries had not yet arrived.
“A very, very powerful tool”
Early data suggests Omicron is more transmissible than previous variants, with the number of Omicron cases in Canada now doubling every other day or less. Experts warn that the large number of cases linked to Omicron could soon put a strain on healthcare systems.
Craig Jenne, an infectious disease expert at the University of Calgary, says rapid tests offer an important layer of protection as Omicron threatens to dominate infection rates.
âIt’s a small step, but a very, very powerful tool when used correctly,â Jenne said. âDoing a quick test before dinner to make sure there are no major infections at your Christmas gathering can be a very effective tool in keeping these environments safe. “
Some provinces have already made quick rests available to residents while others plan to roll them out soon.
In New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, people have been able to access tests for free by getting them in public places like health centers, pop-up test sites Where libraries.
Meanwhile, Quebec will begin distributing 10 million tests to pharmacies across the province on Monday, and Manitoba is expected to receive a first shipment of 110,000 tests that it plans to make available to students in Kindergarten to Grade 6. year in First Nations schools.