140M rapid tests, enough pediatric COVID-19 doses for all second shots coming this month: feds
OTTAWA -- By the end of the month, there will be enough pediatric COVID-19 doses in Canada for all eligible children, and 140 million additional rapid tests will be delivered to provinces and territories, the federal government announced Wednesday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the federal government would “quadruple” December’s fulfilled request from the provinces and territories for 35 million rapid tests.
The incoming 140 million rapid tests is enough for each person in this country to take one rapid test a week for one month, if necessary. They will be divided up to each province and territory on a per-capita basis.
With testing systems overwhelmed in some provinces, access to the laboratory PCR tests has been restricted to high-risk cases, leaving many resorting to at-home rapid tests to screen for COVID-19, a tool that’s become high in demand and hard to come by for many.
Facing questions about why the government is continuing to leave distribution of these tests to the provinces rather than sending them directly to households, Trudeau said it’s on premiers to decide how to allot these tests in their jurisdictions.
“Our responsibility as a federal government is to make sure that there are enough rapid tests… The provinces will make determinations and hopefully they will learn from each other and share best practices in terms of what is working well in one place or another,” Trudeau said.
“But, we expect the provinces and territories to be there to distribute these rapid tests that we are procuring by the hundreds of millions to citizens, to help us get through this wave of Omicron as best as we possibly can."
In the December 2021 fiscal update, the federal government earmarked $1.7 billion to procure rapid antigen testing supplies in light of the arrival of the Omicron variant.
Reacting to the rapid testing announcement in a separate Facebook Live statement, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said that Trudeau’s government has “failed to deliver.”
“Before Christmas it was like The Hunger Games trying to get a rapid test in Canada. There should have been hundreds of millions of these tests being used already over the course of last year,” he said. “Justin Trudeau has failed to give us tools in sufficient quantities to be able to manage COVID.”
The reliance on rapid testing has led to questions about the impact on the accuracy of daily case counts, given many new COVID-19 infections are not being reported.
Still, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Wednesday that more daily tests are happening now than at any other point in the pandemic.
VACCINES ARE THERE: PM
Trudeau also confirmed that there are enough COVID-19 vaccines in Canada now for all adults who are eligible to receive their first, second, or booster doses.
“On vaccines and boosters, we now have enough vaccines in the country for everyone,” Trudeau said, imploring all who have yet to get their shots to do so.
“If you haven't yet gotten vaccinated for whatever reasons, know that there is a vaccine for you waiting at your local pharmacy or your local health centre. We have all the vaccines we need for all Canadians, so please get yourself vaccinated,” he said.
As well, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said that by the end of January the government expects to have enough supply in the country for all eligible children to receive both doses.
“More than 40 per cent of kids aged five to 11 have already received one dose of vaccine…. We would be in a very different position right now if we did not have such a high vaccination rate, and the vaccine supply we need support further vaccination efforts throughout the New Year,” Duclos said.
'JANUARY 2022 IS NOT MARCH 2020'
Wednesday’s address marked the first press conference from Trudeau since before the holidays, over which time national COVID-19 cases have reached new highs in certain regions, prompted largely by the ongoing rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
Many regions have since reverted to virtual schooling for students and have shuttered or greatly reduced capacity at businesses like gyms, theatres, and restaurants as was the case in earlier waves of the now nearly two-year-long global pandemic.
“Unfortunately, with the Omicron variant spreading fast across the country, this is not the new year we were all hoping for… But let's be clear: January 2022 is not March 2020. We have made significant progress and we're continuing to add resources and tools to help protect and support Canadians,” Duclos said Wednesday.
Acknowledging that Canadians are frustrated, tired, and angry that in many ways it feels like the country is back into considerable restrictions over concerns of overwhelming the health-care system, Trudeau said that while Canadians will likely have to “hunker down” this winter, the country is “looking at a better spring.”