Jan 13, 2022

By Jane Brown

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The federal health minister has acknowledged Canada is in crisis when it comes to COVID-19 PCR testing capacity, as the Trudeau Liberals try to make good on a promise to deliver 140-million rapid tests to provinces by the end of January.

Many provincial decision makers have decided to restrict molecular PCR testing to individuals who are at a higher risk of being hospitalized from COVID-19 or are in settings where the virus could spread more quickly.

Jean-Yves Duclos says that’s why at-home rapid antigen tests have become a crucial tool in this fifth wave of the pandemic, which has been driven by the more transmissible Omicron variant.

Here in Ontario, 4.6-million of the 54-million tests earmarked for this province have arrived, with another 7.8 million set for delivery. There is no such schedule for the remaining 42-million promised tests.

At the same time, Ontario’s Education Minister is making a promise related to rapid tests for day one of the return to in person learning on Monday.

“Our government and the premier has prioritized, and literally in real time, shipping 3.9-million rapid tests available on the first day of school for kits of two tests so that parents could test their children at home and increase the level of safety and assurance for themselves, and the kids and their peers in the classroom,” Stephen Lecce explained.

Lecce also confirmed earlier Ministry of Health information that PCR tests will only be given to students who devellop COVID symptoms while at school, and public health staff will only notify families if 30-percent of the school, including staff and students, is absent for any reason.

NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles says she finds this ironic.

“It shouldn’t be easier to find out there’s a lice outbreak in your kid’s school than a COVID outbreak,” Stiles quipped.

Stiles admits the commitments made Wednesday by the education minister are promising, but let’s see if they follow through when classrooms open on Monday.

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