A formal re-opening of the economy may still be weeks away, but for businesses that have had to remain open, or are looking to re-open in the future, will have an easier time of it with a new program from the Guelph Chamber of Commerce and Innovation Guelph. Starting today, the Chamber is making COVID-19 rapid test screening available to Guelph’s small and medium-sized businesses as part of a Federal and Provincial joint program.
“Helping businesses navigate the pandemic has been our focus since the onset of this crisis. Ensuring businesses have the proper tools so they can stay open and stay safe is critical” said Guelph Chamber President and CEO Shakiba Shayani in a statement. “We’re excited to continue to support businesses while contributing to the overall wellbeing of our community.”
Part of the Provincial Antigen Screening Program (PASP), the Chamber will help distribute testing kits to all Guelph businesses with 150 employee or less. The tests, which are Abbott PanBio COVID-19 Ag-Rapid tests, are non-invasive and about 90 per cent accurate when used properly. Businesses can order the kits directly from the Ministry of Health, and then report the results to a special page set up on the Chamber’s website.
It’s recommended that all employees be tested twice a week, and that test results be reported at least once per week, but the cost to businesses is just staff time to take the tests and report the results. The kits themselves are being made available free of charge.
“Like the Chamber, we’ve been focused on helping businesses navigate and respond to the pandemic since it emerged. This project leverages community partnerships and brings an agile approach to supporting local businesses and their evolving needs, which has never been more important.” said Anne Toner Fung, CEO of Innovation Guelph.
PASP was launched as a pilot program last November, and expanded earlier this year as the third wave started to ramp up in Canada. According to the Government of Ontario, by March they had deployed three million point-of-care tests to “priority sectors” like long-term care homes and meat process facilities, but the goal in expanding the program further was to get one million tests completed every week in the province.
“By expanding rapid testing in the workplace and making it easier to administer, we will be able to maintain critical infrastructure and keep people working,” said Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and TradeVic Fedeli in a statement. “These measures are essential to further protect Ontario’s workforce as we work together towards a swift recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, stronger and more resilient before.”
The Guelph rollout of the test comes over a week in advance of the end of the current stay-at-home order, and the discussion about extending it at the provincial level. On Monday, Public Health Ontario reported 2,716 new cases of the virus, which is another one-day dip under 3,000, but the province is still expected to cross 500,000 total cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic sometime later this week.
To learn more about the rapid tests and how to order them, check the Chamber of Commerce website here.