OHS Canada Magazine

Rapid screening pilot program to launch in Waterloo, Ont.

Point-of-care tests intended to keep workers safe in small- and medium sized businesses


The Ontario government, in partnership with the federal government, is launching the StaySafe™ COVID-19 Rapid Screening Pilot in the Waterloo Region.

The StaySafe program will provide free rapid antigen point-of-care tests for employees of small- and medium-sized businesses, with a target of 3,000 rapid tests conducted each week in the region. The program will help detect cases of COVID-19 in the workplace that might otherwise be missed, helping to keep workers and their families safe.

“By expanding rapid testing to small- and medium-sized businesses and making it easier to administer, we will be able to keep people working and safe,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade in a press release.

“These measures are essential to further protect Ontario’s workforce as we work together towards a swift recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, a stronger and more resilient province.”

This approach will allow people to self-swab using a COVID-19 rapid antigen point-of-care screening test under the supervision of a trained person. This method of testing will help reduce administrative costs and be faster and more efficient.

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The StaySafe COVID-19 Rapid Screening Pilot is complementary to those participating in the Provincial Antigen Screening Program. Through this program rapid testing is provided to workplaces for asymptomatic staff in key sectors such as manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain, mining, construction and food processing.

Approximately 5.7 million rapid antigen tests have been sent to over 1,150 workplaces, including 100 essential industry sites, under the Provincial Antigen Screening Program. To further encourage the use of these tests, additional outreach will occur to employers in regions with highest rates of transmission to increase access to testing, and the process for enrolment in the screening program will be streamlined to allow for quick access to these supports.

The StaySafe COVID-19 Rapid Screening Pilot program is a collaboration with the Government of Ontario, Communitech, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, and is supported by local community and business associations within Waterloo Region.

A COVID-19 rapid screening test can be performed anywhere (for example: on-site, at the place of employment) and does not require shipping a specimen to a lab for processing. It takes approximately 15 minutes to yield a result.

Frequent screening with rapid antigen tests increases the chances of early identification of cases in otherwise asymptomatic individuals.