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Province says rapid antigen test makes it easier to do workplace testing

Ontario is expanding the testing program to more sectors include remote communities in the North

The Ontario government has said it aims to provide easy access to COVID-19 testing in the workplace, saying that access will help ensure an entire workforce isn’t tied up in isolation, waiting for results.

Details were outlined in a news release Wednesday. This is regarded as a benefit for rural and remote communities including Northern Indigenous communities where there is limited access to health professionals required to administer testing.

The province said the idea is based on the success of the initial deployment of rapid-Antigen testing. In response the province is expanding the program to include more sectors such as first responders, emergency medical services, trucking and transportation, wastewater management, and post-secondary institutions.

Antigen tests usually take 15 to 20 minutes to get a result.

The idea of rapid antigen testing is to use it as a higher level of actual screening, at a much lower cost. Anyone testing negative can go back to work. Anyone testing positive must be directed to take the proper full diagnostic PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test that requires a more intense examination of the sample, sometimes requiring up to two days to get results. 

"By expanding rapid testing in the workplace and making it easier to administer, we will be able to maintain critical infrastructure and keep people working," said Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Minister Vic Fedeli in a news release.

The testing can be done at remote worksites with minimal supervision. Individuals can take their own sample nasal swabs.

"By clinically endorsing supervised, voluntary self-swabbing for asymptomatic individuals, Ontario is helping businesses reduce the administrative costs of using antigen tests by allowing staff to consider the option of taking their own swabs under the supervision of a trained individual," said a news release from the province. 

The statement also said that the antigen technology-based COVID-19 test that is authorized by Health Canada for point-of-care use can be performed at workplaces by trained individuals and does not require shipping a specimen to a lab for processing. Frequent screening with rapid antigen tests increases the chances of early identification of cases in otherwise asymptomatic individuals.