Jan 11, 2022
Ontario warns businesses about reselling or redistributing free rapid tests
Tales of price-gouging and bootlegging pile up as Canadians hunt for rapid tests
The Ontario government is warning businesses and organizations about reselling or redistributing rapid antigen tests provided to them for free under provincial programs.
In a statement to BNN Bloomberg, the Ontario Ministry of Health said future and active participants of workplace COVID-19 testing programs must adhere to its rules, or risk being booted from the initiative altogether.
“Agreement and adherence to terms and conditions are required in order for businesses and workplaces to continue receiving a supply of rapid antigen tests and to avoid having their participation in the program terminated by the province,” an Ontario spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.
The province’s remarks came after BNN Bloomberg outlined how some business owners used government-provided rapid tests to hold personal gatherings, redistributed them among non-employees, or in some occasions, resold the testing kits to make a profit.
The province didn’t provide a direct answer on whether it’s keeping an eye on businesses to ensure they’re using rapid tests for organizational purposes instead of personal use.
“Participating workplaces must adhere to the parameters outlined in the terms and conditions for employee screening programs, which includes specific requirements that the receiving organization/workplace/business use the tests in accordance with provincial guidance, that businesses that receive the test kits are only used for the purposes of workplace screening (i.e. screening of eligible business’ employees, contractors, volunteers etc.), and that the tests are not to be redistributed or resold,” an Ontario spokesperson wrote.
BNN Bloomberg’s reporting last week showed how anger is palpable among Canadians — especially those who have been compelled to line up for hours, often to no avail, or have paid exorbitant fees, to find scarce rapid antigen tests.
As the highly-transmissible Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly, and with access to provincial polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing now restricted, Ontario said 99 per cent of the 54 million rapid tests deployed across the province have “been used.”
To curb those major shortages, the federal government said it is promising to deploy 140 million rapid tests across the country by the end of January.
How that will happen, however, remains to be seen — with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaving the decisions around distribution up to individual provinces and territories. “Our responsibility as a federal government is to make sure that there are enough rapid tests,” Trudeau said in a media briefing late last week.