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Unlike the rest of Canada, free rapid COVID 19 tests are not widely available in NL.

Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador say they are frustrated with the lack of free rapid COVID-19 tests as other provinces make them widely available at no cost.

Heather Elliott, a St. John’s sales clerk, says many of her friends and family are scrambling to find rapid tests to take home.

PCR tests, meanwhile, are only offered to certain groups, such as people over 60, pregnant women, and those who work in high-risk environments like healthcare.

“Learning to live with COVID — part of that is being able to identify if you have COVID,” Elliott said in an interview Tuesday. “And unfortunately, in Newfoundland and Labrador right now, a lot of people don’t have that option.

“If you want my opinion, that’s probably part of why our numbers are so high right now because people can’t test.”

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On April 13, Newfoundland and Labrador reported 723 new cases of COVID-19 over five days and a total of 1,588 active infections. These numbers, however, did not reflect the actual situation in the province due to limited PCR testing.

Unlike the rest of Canada, where limited supplies of rapid COVID-19 tests are available free of charge at community centers, pharmacies or government offices, Newfoundland and Labrador only provides free rapid test kits in schools. , long-term care homes, congregate living settings and healthcare workers.

Unlike the rest of Canada, free rapid COVID 19 tests are not widely available in NL.

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Elliott, however, considers herself lucky. As the mother-in-law of a child who receives COVID-19 test kits at school, she says she often provides additional tests of her daughter to family members and friends who feel ill or planning to visit vulnerable people.

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“We are the only people in my immediate circle who have semi-consistent access to (rapid tests),” she said.

Before the tests were available in schools, Elliott’s husband paid over $70 for a set of five tests at Staples. A set of two COVID-19 rapid test kits are sold at Co-op grocery stores for around $55.

“We are in a position where we are able to absorb this cost; I know a lot of people who can’t,” she said.

Access “depends on connections”, finances

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, was asked during last week’s COVID-19 briefing if testing availability would be expanded. She responded that the province’s supply of rapid tests are being used where they are most needed.

“We’re trying to keep kids in school and we’re looking at where people may be more at risk of serious illness or at risk of spreading it,” she said.

“A small reserve” of rapid antigen tests is held by the province in case they are needed in the event of an outbreak, a spokesperson for the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Health said in an email on Tuesday. Retail stores selling rapid tests acquired the kits independently and not from the province’s federal allocation, the spokesperson added.

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Paris Marx, a doctoral student and writer from the town of Paradise, outside St. John’s, said she was disappointed with the government’s handling of rapid tests.

“It’s terrible to say, but your access to rapid tests right now in Newfoundland and Labrador really depends on connections or being able to afford them,” he said in an interview. tuesday.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 19, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press