Ontario’s COVID Rapid Tests Sell Higher Prices Online

COVID-19 rapid test kits are a hot commodity in the province right now.

After LCBO stores across Ontario sold out the initial 200,000 free test kits within a day of distribution, some kits began to appear for sale on online platforms like Craigslist and TikTok.

Long queues for rapid tests are again indicative of a lack of focused and fair approach that is needed for testing, according to an infectious disease expert.

Queues wrapped around buildings on Friday and Saturday as Torontonians lined up for free rapid tests that the province handed out to six locations across Toronto, as well as the 21 local locations of the LCBO. 100 LCBO stores across the province participated in the program.

“All of these test kits have now been distributed. Many thanks to the LCBO for participating in Ontario’s COVID-19 vacation testing program, ”the Ontario government confirmed in a notice posted on its website.

Many lined up at 7:30 a.m. in queues reminiscent of test lines in 2020 as news of Omicron’s surge hit the province in recent days. Positive cases reached 3,301 on Saturday.

“Who can afford to stand in line like this for so many hours?” Said Dr Andrew Boozary, director of social medicine and population health at the University Health Network.

The problems with rapid tests, where only those who have time to queue and research the sites and times, are the same scenario that has been played out with testing and vaccinations since the start of the pandemic, Boozary said.

“It’s really disheartening because we’ve been through this before,” he said. “We don’t have easy access to testing. “

He said the location of the rapid tests – which have been massively in the heart of the city, where young professionals with disposable income live – ends up excluding those who live in neighborhoods, like the northwest of the city, where rapid testing is needed most. .

“And as we see the rollout of rapid antigenic testing, this is again systemic discrimination over and over again. Neighborhoods that have poverty and the highest positivity rates have the least access, ”he said.

Taking a “blind approach to equity” once again leads people to try to take advantage of these disparities by selling free tests that they have had the opportunity to acquire, he explained.

Some kits are resold online. They appear to be rapid response antigen tests, the same brand being distributed by the province. Posters on Craigslist and TikTok were asking for between $ 80 and $ 100 per box of five tests.

“It is morally repugnant in a pandemic that some people seek to take advantage of life-saving measures by grabbing free antigen tests,” Boozary said.

A salesperson said he got the test kit for free at his workplace.

In March 2020, Ontario announced fines of up to $ 500,000 for those who dramatically increase the prices of “necessary products” which at the time included PPE, the non-prescription drugs to treat symptoms of the disease. COVID-19, personal hygiene products and disinfectants. These fines also targeted those who posted these articles on online classifieds platforms at inflated prices.

Several Toronto Shoppers Drug Marts have stopped selling rapid antigen tests in take-out kit form, but rapid antigen tests are still available inside the drugstore for $ 40.

Boozary said those who need the tests the most should be given priority, without the cost barrier.

“We’ve been through this so many times. If we cannot anchor these learnings, it is the same communities that are left behind, ”he said.

Boozary said he hopes any unused tests can be donated at places like community centers, where their staff and clients have not had access to the province’s free rapid tests.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care told The Star that two million rapid tests are provided for free at pop-up test sites in “high traffic” areas such as malls, libraries. public and public transport hubs.

“We recognize that there is a significant demand for rapid testing and we are delighted to see so many people taking the opportunity to add an extra layer of protection,” the ministry said.

But, the ministry added that Ontario has a limited supply of rapid tests and that “every test” the province has received from the federal government has been distributed to workplaces, hospitals, nursing homes. home and community, schools and daycares as well as pop-ups.

Ahead of new sanitary restrictions that take effect on Sunday, limiting capacity to 50% for most indoor environments, including restaurants, malls, and sports venues, and indoor gathering limits reduced to 10 people – the Acquiring rapid tests is seen as a necessity for small holiday gatherings.

At the Toronto Eaton Center, the mall appeared to be busy, but news of Omicron’s spread and increased cases has delayed any last-minute holiday shopping, said Jashan Kaur, one from the directors of Canadian Personalized Ornaments, a Christmas ornament booth at the mall.

She and the other manager said foot traffic was down on Saturday and they felt the mall was less busy than usual, for the last weekend before Christmas Day.

“There aren’t a lot of customers, as there should be for Christmas,” she said, adding that the mall was much busier earlier in the week.

Everything has changed as the numbers have increased, and if this mall is less busy that indicates people could stay home, said Dr. Anna Banerji, pediatrician and infectious disease physician at the University of Toronto. .

But stocking up on rapid tests and using them to justify rallies is a problem, she explained.

“If you go to a place you have to go, like a long-term care facility, it makes sense… but having them as an excuse to attend bigger events is not what it was intended for. . She explained.

It could give a false sense of security.

“You might not be symptomatic and the test is not perfect. People always have to be careful, ”she said.


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