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Rapid tests for COVID-19 screening in the workplace

From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

The Government of Canada is launching new efforts to increase the availability of rapid test kits for Canadian workers.

Specifically, we are working with industry associations, non-profit and other organizations to discuss their needs and to ensure timely access to these tests for screening purposes. This approach supports screening for high-contact workers in critical sectors. Find out how to access free rapid tests for your employees.

This initiative complements provincial and territorial activities. Its goal is to:

The use of rapid tests as a screening tool is another layer of protection. It's not a substitute for other public health measures, such as mask wearing, hand hygiene, physical distancing, proper ventilation and using the COVID Alert app.  

Learn why screening is important and how you can start your own workplace screening program.

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Benefits of setting up rapid workplace screening

There are 2 kinds of tests: diagnostic and screening tests. Diagnostic tests, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, can confirm if someone has COVID-19. Screening, through the use of rapid antigen detection tests (RAD), can potentially identify positive cases earlier to help reduce the spread of the virus and prevent outbreaks. RADTs are important screening tools to help you protect your employees, their families and the community where they live.

While RADTs are not as sensitive as PCR tests, they provide a result in as little as 15 minutes. However, given their lower sensitivity, a negative result on a RADT should not be interpreted as though the individual does not have COVID-19.

When used regularly, RADTs may help identify individuals who may be infectious early on. Individuals can be pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic but still be carrying the virus and may transmit it to others. They are also effective at identifying individuals who have a high viral load.

Those receiving a positive RADT result should seek a PCR test as soon as possible for a confirmatory diagnosis. This also allows local public health authorities to identify the nature of the virus and track variants of concern.

Implementing a screening program in your workplace

Workplace screening has been piloted in some provinces and territories. As part of a consortium, several organizations have put in place workplace screening initiatives and have identified best practices. A few can be found below:

Be sure to follow guidelines issued by your own province or territory and local public health authority, if applicable. Please note that the individuals authorized to administer RADT kits differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. You need to be in compliance with the regulations of your province or territory.

Currently, some provinces have specific guidance on rapid antigen testing:

This page will be updated as additional best practices and guidance are identified.

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