Amid calls in the legislature Wednesday to “free the RAT” an acronym for rapid antigen tests Premier Doug Ford says Ontario has handed out 33 million free kits across the province.
The Ford government has come under fire from opposition parties for not making the test kits free to anyone who wants them. NDP leader Andrea Horwath says the tests should be free right now, “This is part of the action plan Ontario needs to prevent another COVID wave. Let people take a rapid test before visiting with loved ones. Encourage people to take a rapid test at the first signs of a cold. That’s what other provinces do, and if I were premier today, that’s what Ontario would do.”
Ford says the province is leading the country in delivering free tests to students, congregate and long-term care settings as well as hospitals and businesses.
Ford says the province is handing out about 1 million tests a week, “We’re covering the gamut of making sure that people have the test…We have a plan, it’s a strong plan, and we’re going to make sure that we continue implementing the pandemic plan. And as I said we have the strongest pandemic plan in the country, bar none.”
#FreeTheRATs has been trending on social media. An online petition by a Toronto-area ICU nurse has thousands of signatures calling on the Ford government to provide free tests to every household.
As part of the government’s plan, every child in an Ontario school will be sent home for the holiday break with five rapid antigen tests.
The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table is set to release a new science brief and recommendations for rapid testing in the next few days.
Rapid antigen tests are available for about $40 at pharmacies for asymptomatic people who have not been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
**With files from Wendy Gray