The Manitoba government will roll out COVID-19 rapid antigen testing programs for designated critical service workers to enhance access to testing and protect vulnerable Manitobans, Families Minister Rochelle Squires and Education Minister Cliff Cullen announced Tuesday.
“This expanded use of rapid antigen tests supplied by the province for critical service areas is intended to enhance access to testing for designated workers and allow them to return to work sooner,” said Squires. “Tests will be provided for all designated staff in critical service areas who are symptomatic and work directly with clients and vulnerable populations.”
Currently, rapid tests are provided for asymptomatic designated staff under public health orders who have not provided proof that they are fully vaccinated. This includes school and licensed child-care facility personnel, public servants who regularly have direct and ongoing or prolonged direct contact with vulnerable populations, child and family service personnel and funded agency personnel in direct contact with vulnerable populations, among others.
Eligibility for rapid antigen tests is being expanded to include all designated staff in critical service areas who are symptomatic and work:
• in early learning and child-care facilities;
• with Community Living disABILITY Services service providers;
• with child and family services group care providers;
• in homeless and family violence shelters;
• in Manitoba Families, working in front-line positions with clients; and
• as school teachers or staff with direct and ongoing or prolonged contact with kindergarten to Grade 12 students.
Given the limited supply of rapid tests, kits will not be made available for healthy staff to have on hand in case they become ill. Tests will be provided directly to staff who are already showing COVID-19 symptoms and are scheduled to work in the near future (within three days). Home-based early learning and child care providers who become symptomatic and would like to access testing supplies should contact their child care co-ordinator.
The tests are intended to be used only for designated staff who have COVID-19 symptoms. At this time, public health officials are not recommending rapid antigen tests be used for young children at child-care centres. Doing a swab on a young child or a child who is unable to stay still can be challenging and caution should be taken. If a child has symptoms of COVID-19, parents can visit a provincial test site (https://manitoba.ca/covid19/testing/locations.html) for testing.
In addition to rapid antigen testing for symptomatic staff in schools, Manitoba Education will also be implementing a testing program for asymptomatic teachers, staff and kindergarten to Grade 12 students at Manitoba schools experiencing high case numbers or high levels of absenteeism. Schools will provide rapid antigen tests to students and staff identified as potentially exposed as part of the cluster or outbreak, or who are part of a classroom/cohort with a concerning level of cases or absenteeism.
“This expansion of rapid antigen testing in schools is an additional measure we are putting in place to support ongoing, in-person learning for students across the province,” said Cullen. “We all sincerely appreciate service providers’ ongoing efforts and hard work to provide quality care and services, and I want to thank all designated critical service workers for their continued commitment to caring for, supporting and protecting vulnerable Manitobans during these challenging times.”
Program details are being finalized and detailed information about the programs will be sent directly to affected programs. It is expected the programs will be in place by Jan. 17. Plans are also being developed to further deploy rapid testing for Manitoba Corrections staff and sheriffs.
For more information on COVID-19 testing in Manitoba, visit: https://gov.mb.ca/covid19/testing/index.html