Residents of Toronto are still line up for hours outside malls and community centers in order to get their hands on the highly sought-after quick COVID-19 tests in time for the holidays.
A line formed outside Yorkdale Shopping Centre early Thursday morning, where 1,000 free quick antigen test kits were delivered at 9 a.m.
One of the first people in line stated he came just before 6 a.m.
“We came a little early to ensure we had a space because we didn’t want to miss out and prepare for the holidays.” “We were surprised to be the first,” he explained.
One woman said she is just grateful that she has the time off to be able to lineup.
“I guess I’m just thankful that we are able to get access at all. I know that there are tonnes of people that haven’t been able to,” she said outside the mall on Thursday.
“I am just a little scared for the holidays now and what’s going to happen after that.”
Another man said he wanted the rapid tests so he could feel more comfortable visiting his elderly parents over the holidays.
Appointments for PCR tests have become scarce in the province due to a surge in cases caused by rapid transmission of the more infectious Omicron variant.
Many people have also had difficulty booking rapid testing appointments at pharmacies in recent weeks due to the spike in infections.
The province is hosting pop-ups at various locations to distribute rapid tests to the public prior to holiday gatherings but demand continues to outstrip supply.
As part of the province’s holiday testing strategy, rapid tests were briefly distributed at select LCBO locations but liquor stores ran out of tests in just days and many people waited in long lineups outside locations that either had not received tests or had run out.
For those who are able to get a rapid test, Michelle Hoad, CEO of the Medical Laboratory Professionals’ Association of Ontario, said they are an effective tool, especially when it comes to the Omicron variant.
“We have always said the PCR test is our gold standard and with the rapid test, there has always been a concern that you don’t have enough viral load for it show up. But with Omicron, the viral load is high so that’s why the rapid test has been a great tool for us,” she said Thursday.
“If you test positive in the rapid test, you most likely have the virus. You need to be staying home.”
She urged people not to seek out PCR test simply for peace of mind before visiting family over the holidays.
“Getting a PCR test because you think you need one to see a family member through the holidays is not the right thing to do because our system can’t handle that,” she said.
“So let’s be smart before we go and get tested.”