Ottawa says 140 million rapid tests heading to the provinces, territories this month

The federal government said today an additional 140 million rapid tests will be delivered to provinces and territories this month.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the government is now in the process of delivering the tests, which will be allocated to provinces and territories on a per-capita basis.

The 140 million additional tests are enough to provide “one rapid test per week, per person, in Canada for January,” he said.

Before December, the government said it had delivered 85 million rapid tests to the provinces and territories. As the Omicron coronavirus variant began to spread rapidly last month, the government pushed out 35 million tests to the regions, said Duclos.

People line up for free rapid tests at the Minto Recreation Complex in Ottawa, Ont. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

The rush for rapid tests comes as many regions scale back on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing — the gold standard of COVID testing — due to capacity concerns. PCR tests are mostly offered through assessment centres, hospitals and other health care settings and require lab analysis.

The demand for rapid tests has been outpacing supply. A pop-up in Kitchener, Ont. ran out of rapid test kits within an hour on Tuesday.

Before the Christmas break, Ontario Premier Doug Ford apologized after free COVID-19 rapid tests offered at LCBO stores and other locations in the province “disappeared like rapid fire.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said rapid tests are going to help the country get through the latest spike in caseloads and hospitalizations.

“Let’s be honest, this isn’t how anyone wanted to be starting 2022. I can understand that people are frustrated, people are tired, people had a holiday season that was less festive for most people across the country than they would have liked,” he said.

“I can tell you as a parent we’ve very aware the kids are back in school virtually and I can understand people are frustrated. But I also know we know how to get through this.”

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