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Hottest holiday item this year? A COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test Kit

Hunt for COVID-19 rapid test kits sparks ‘hunger games’ in tough government distribution rollout

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The Ontario government’s first free distribution of COVID-19 test kits in Hamilton came from a mobile vaccination bus on Thursday parked outside a historic site, announced to run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 30 – but all the kits were gone within minutes.


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The programming had started at 6 a.m.

People complained that only 100 kits were available as several hundred people continued to arrive, crowding the streets and sidewalks around Dundurn Castle on the town’s waterfront.

Jan Heastont drove 60 kilometers from rural Fisherville, Ontario to the site, but it was difficult to approach due to traffic jams, people pulling up haphazardly and drivers stopping to let vehicles go. passengers run towards the growing queue.

She turned around without going out.

“There was a backlog of traffic as soon as I stepped off Main Street,” she said. “Frankly, I was worried about the number of people who were there.”

At Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall, one of the Toronto area’s many pop-up distribution points, a long line of test kits meandered through the shopping lobby, where security ordered bewildered people to arrive to pick up a kit where was really the end of the line. They too ran out soon after opening.

“Hunger Games” sniped a failed researcher.

It was a popular metaphor Thursday in Ontario as the hunt for test kits began in the province’s rocky deployment, referencing the film of a forced competition where children fight to the death until one survive.


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The frustrating start to distribution in Toronto and Hamilton, however, was even better than in most communities where there was no distribution.

In Ottawa, the province’s test kits have yet to arrive, said Dr. Vera Etches, the city’s medical officer of health.

“We believe the first shipment will arrive on December 21. So that means in about five days we should be able at 10 sites in Ottawa to make rapid antigen tests available to people,” said Etches.

Dr Dalia Hasan, founder of COVID Test Finders, a social media effort to help people get a test kit, said her good kits were finally available, but it wasn’t a good start.

“There is an inequitable accessibility to rapid tests which must be rectified as soon as possible. Ontario is much larger than Toronto and the surrounding cities, ”said Hasan.


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“We need to be able to put rapid testing in the hands of every resident of Ontario, given that the Omicron variant is here. The demand is clearly there. People are lining up by the hundreds. People want to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“Human lives are at stake. This is not a marketing opportunity for shopping centers and businesses, it is a public health measure that must be implemented in public health establishments.

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The name of the test kits distributed – rapid antigen tests or RATs – led to the #FreeTheRATs hashtag trending on social media Thursday.


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“#FreeTheRATs beyond an hour of supply,” COVID Test Finder tweeted. “What is spreading faster? The C19 virus, or the number of people who need rapid antigen tests? Only the data will tell.

The Ontario Ministry of Health would not say how many test kits were distributed Thursday or how many were at each distribution site. The ministry said the province “has a limited supply” of test kits.

“Faced with the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, we recognize that there is a significant demand for rapid testing and we are delighted to see so many people take the opportunity to add an extra layer of protection before the holidays,” Anna Miller, said a spokesperson for the Department of Health.

“Every test the province has received from the federal government is spreading to thousands of workplaces, hospitals, home and community care centers, long-term care homes, schools. and daycare centers in addition to the many pop-ups. sites across the province.


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Miller said the province is trying to buy kits and is urging the federal government to provide more kits to provinces.

Distribution of free test kits begins Friday in Alberta.

The province plans to distribute them on a first-come, first-served basis to approximately 600 pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, and 140 Alberta Health Services clinics in small communities.

There are over 500,000 kits, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said.

“It is especially welcome at this time of year, as we know that more Albertans will mingle and mingle throughout the Christmas season and will often travel, for example, from town to hometown,” he said. Kenney said.

Quebec is expected to start distributing free test kits in pharmacies next week. Pharmacists warn that the deployment can be uneven at first.


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“The tests will be distributed as we receive them, but they may not be available in all pharmacies in the first days of deployment,” said Benoit Morin, president of the association of pharmacists.

Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have already distributed test kits and received praise from other parts of the country.

Nova Scotia, Hasan said, “is a beacon on early distribution.”

However, increased demand means decreased supply.

In Halifax, where they are distributed to public libraries, they ran out of kits in all branches on Thursday. Restocking was underway and distribution is expected to resume on Friday, Halifax Public Libraries said.

Test kits are available for purchase in some stores, although they are often not easily found and some companies limit their customers.

They range from $ 8.75 to $ 40 at various pharmacies and retail stores, according to COVID Test Finders. Some manufacturers offer to sell boxes of kits directly to companies for employee testing.

As usual, the scarcity of tests has pushed some towards the black market.

“Because these resources are so scarce, people take advantage of them and accumulate rapid tests and sell them online at obscene prices,” Hasan said.

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