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“We still have to get the country out of a pandemic,” Colijn said.
Dhalla said there are two other settings where we should be ramping up rapid test screening: large workplaces and schools.
“My first preference would be to get these tests into settings where people either have to congregate or where we really want people to congregate,” he said.
Large workplaces are finally starting to roll out rapid test screening, with Air Canada, Loblaws, Suncor and other major corporations announcing programs. Ontario announced it will send out 300,000 rapid tests per week to key business sectors such as manufacturing and food processing. In contrast to some provinces, Ontario has now ordered an extra nine million Panbio tests for distribution, the health ministry says.
Schools are a trickier matter, at least until Health Canada approves a gentler swab for rapid testing — or, even better, a rapid test that only needs saliva to work. Dhalla said he thinks it’s probably impossible to have healthcare professionals do the nasopharyngeal swab on young children twice a week. In the meantime, though, a regular rapid test for teachers would be an achievable goal.
Dhalla said different regions should decide what works best for them, but above all: get the tests done. One test is better than no test.
The longer health officials wait on this, the more difficult it will be. Regular screening requires a steady flow of tests. For now, at least, it appears doable. The federal government has shipped out 13.5 million Panbio tests to provinces, and more are coming.