A petition from a Toronto-area ICU nurse calling on Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford to provide free rapid COVID-19 antigen tests to all homes in the province is circulating online.
Thousands of people have signed the petition, which states: “The Omicron variant is here, and COVID-19 cases are increasing by the day. Research shows that rapid antigen tests are critical to preventing the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 by providing fast and reliable results. That’s why they need to be available to all Ontario residents. “
Also gaining momentum online is #FreeTheRATs, an acronym for Rapid Antigen Testing.
“Currently, we are sadly under-utilizing testing,” said Dr. Dalia Hasan, physician and founder of COVID-19 Test Finders.
“Not taking advantage of this critical public health tool is, frankly, an unforced error,” he added.
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His goal, he explained, is to disseminate information on how to access free quick tests for personal or commercial use.
“They help reduce unnecessary outbreaks and quarantines, reduce morbidity and mortality, and at the end of the day, public health is about saving lives and preventing disease transmission, and simply put, increasing the availability of rapid tests. free at home would save lives, ”Hasan said.
Hasan said that it is necessary that all households in the province have access to the tests and that all students.
“Given the number of outbreaks we are seeing in schools right now, especially with Omicron threatening us, it is already affecting London schools … it is imperative that we bring these rapid tests to schools to protect our vulnerable populations,” he said.
The rapid tests are currently offered free of charge to Ontario businesses and have been distributed to schools in high-transmission areas. The government has also said it plans to send all schoolchildren home with five rapid tests during the December holidays.
But other than that, the quick tests have not been made available to anyone else for free.
On Toronto’s eastern edge, a group of concerned parents hatched a plan to create a rapid COVID-19 testing program at their children’s school in September, but the supply of testing is now dwindling and parents are seeking support from the Province.
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“It’s really frustrating that we know that these tests are somewhere in Ontario … but we can’t access them,” said Betty Zou, mother and organizer of the initiative. Asymptomatic Testing from Earl Beatty Community.
His team is considering raising money to buy tests, which sell for $ 40 each at Shoppers Drug Mart, but Zou acknowledged that not all parenting communities could afford that.
“There are a lot of other schools where there are outbreaks right now in high-risk communities where this isn’t even an option, so there’s a lot of fairness to this as well and it’s really frustrating that we have to pay out of pocket for testing that They have already been purchased for use by Canadian citizens, ”Zou said.
In Queen’s Park, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the tests are widely available and accessible to Ontarians.
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“We are making them very available both in terms of when you can get tested and where you can get tested, which is why we presented the pharmacies to be able to do some of these tests for symptomatic and asymptomatic … recognizing that as we return to to open Ontario, there will be more interactions with people, there is a greater chance that cases will increase and that is why we need to do more tests, “he said.
Intensive care physician Dr. Brooks Fallis noted that public health tools should be used “freely to make the events you attend safer.”
Fallis said now is the time for the Ford administration to be proactive “with some good new decisions.”
“It always feels in Ontario that there has to be a big public outcry – media reports and people yelling and yelling to do something,” he said.
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Fallis would like to see education about airborne broadcast, the community inundated with rapid tests, and an improvement in the quality of the masks people wear.
“The government needs to subsidize high-quality masks… also rapid tests fall into the same category. If everyone wears better masks and everyone undergoes rapid tests before their social engagements where they will not wear a mask, we would significantly reduce unexpected transmission in our communities, “he said.
Ontario’s COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Board said the group plans to release a scientific report on the subject of rapid tests in the coming days, including new recommendations.
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