OHS Canada Magazine

Ontario government expands COVID-19 rapid testing for workplaces

Measure meant to help keep workers safe in small and medium-sized businesses


The Ontario government, in partnership with the federal government and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, has launched the COVID-19 Rapid Screening Initiative for small and medium-sized businesses across the province.

The 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, helping to keep workers and their families safe and businesses open.

This initiative has quickly garnered significant interest with chambers of commerce across the province. More than 760,000 rapid test kits have already shipped to 28 chambers and more than 50 others have expressed interest in participating.

“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.”

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“The rollout of the COVID-19 Rapid Screening Initiative through local chambers of commerce will make rapid tests accessible for more employees of small and medium-sized businesses,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. “This initiative is providing Ontario’s hardworking business owners with more tools to prevent outbreaks and will ensure their employees can stay on the job with the best protection possible.”

“Our government’s top priority is protecting the health and safety of all Ontarians. As we continue to vaccinate more Ontarians, testing remains a key component of Ontario’s pandemic response,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “By supporting the use of rapid antigen tests by more businesses, our government is helping to provide an additional layer of protection for workers and their families.”

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 30, 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.

The COVID-19 Rapid Screening Initiative builds upon the success of this existing program and delivers tests into the hands of small and medium-sized businesses across the province.

Making COVID-19 rapid tests accessible to all small and medium-sized businesses is part of a greater strategy to decrease the impact of COVID-19 on the people of Ontario and the economy. This includes stay-at-home measures, paid sick days, education campaigns on how to stay safe, significant testing and tracing capacity, and a robust vaccination distribution plan to make sure that every Ontarian who wants to be vaccinated will be vaccinated.

Quick facts

  • To contact participating local chambers of commerce and boards of trade about the COVID-19 Rapid Screening Initiative, visit the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
  • Non-chamber members with 150 employees or less are welcome to participate in the initiative.
  • The COVID-19 Rapid Screening Initiative applies to businesses allowed to be open under current orders.
  • The StaySafe COVID-19 Rapid Screening Pilot program in Waterloo Region is a collaboration among the Government of Ontario, Health Canada, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and participating member chambers, and Communitech.
  • There are more ways for organizations to easily find out how to access rapid antigen tests. Visit ontario.ca/testingonsite to find out more.
  • A COVID-19 rapid screening test can be performed anywhere (e.g., on-site, at the place of employment) and does not require shipping a specimen to a lab for processing. It takes about 15 minutes to yield a result.
  • Rapid antigen point-of-care testing does not replace public health measures, such as symptom screening, physical distancing, masking and hand hygiene. Any positive results from a rapid antigen point-of-care test must be confirmed with laboratory-based chain reaction (PCR) testing.
  • Employees can self-swab using a COVID-19 rapid test under the supervision of a trained employee or business owner.