TORONTO — The provincial government announced today that it has partnered with the federal government and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to kick rapid testing into high gear for small and medium-sized businesses across Ontario. The new COVID-19 Rapid Screening Initiative will provide free rapid antigen tests for employees of small and medium-sized businesses through participating local chambers of commerce and other organizations. The program will screen for asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 in the workplace that might otherwise be missed, with the aim of helping to keep workers and their families safe and businesses open.
Ontario has already begun delivering rapid testing kits through the Provincial Antigen Screening Program to workplaces for asymptomatic staff in key sectors such as manufacturing, warehousing, the supply chain, mining, construction and food processing. As of April 30th, about 7.6 million rapid antigen tests had been sent through the program to nearly 1,500 workplaces. This includes nearly 200 essential industry sites, most of them in hot spot areas.
“With the success of the StaySafe Rapid Testing Pilot in Waterloo Region, expanding rapid testing to small and medium-sized businesses across the province will help keep people working and safe,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “Adding rapid antigen testing to the arsenal of protections for small and medium-sized businesses, especially in regions with hot spots, is one more important step towards keeping businesses open and economic recovery.”
According to a spokesperson, more than 760,000 rapid test kits have already shipped through the COVID-19 Rapid Screening Initiative to 28 chambers and more than 50 others have expressed interest in participating.
However, while the Ford government continues to highlight the importance of protecting employees, it has received scathing criticism for opposing the 14-day paid sick leave program in favour of only 3 paid sick days, which has been called “pitifully inadequate” by the opposition. The 14-day sick leave program was recommended by the science table because it would drastically cut the number of cases and ICU admissions. It is unknown whether the number of paid sick days is likely to change.