Manitoba to provide rapid tests for some critical service workers showing COVID symptoms

The province of Manitoba is expanding access to rapid testing for critical service workers who show symptoms of COVID-19. 

Province also launching rapid testing program for schools experiencing outbreaks

The province says rapid testing will now be provided for critical service workers showing symptoms of COVID-19. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The province says it's expanding rapid COVID-19 test access for Manitobans who work in child-care centres, homeless shelters, schools and other critical services. 

It's also rolling out rapid testing in schools experiencing high numbers of cases and/or absenteeism, according to a Tuesday news release.

Currently, rapid tests are provided to some designated government workers who are asymptomatic and have not provided proof they are fully vaccinated. 

Starting next week, the tests will be made available all designated staff who work in critical service areas, if they are symptomatic and are scheduled to work within three days.

That includes:

  • Early learning and child-care facility workers.
  • Community Living disAbility Services service providers.
  • Child and family services group care providers.
  • Homeless and family violence shelter workers.
  • Manitoba Families employees working in front-line positions with clients.
  • School teachers or staff with direct and ongoing or prolonged contact with kindergarten to Grade 12 students.

The tests will be given to workers if they are showing symptoms, but will not be given to asymptomatic staff to keep on hand in case they get sick, the province says, due to the high demands for rapid tests in Manitoba. 

The tests will be distributed directly to employers, a spokesperson for the province said. 

In addition, the Education Department will be implementing a testing program for asymptomatic teachers, staff and K-12 students at Manitoba schools that have seen outbreaks of cases or high numbers of absences among staff or students. 

The tests will be given to staff or students identified as part of outbreak clusters, the news release says.

Jodie Kehl, executive director of the Manitoba Child Care Association, said the change is a step in right direction.

"I think it's one more level of protection to offer early childhood educators and particularly also the young children that they work with," she said. 

"Child-care facilities in the province are being greatly impacted by staffing shortages right now."

At some child-care facilities, more than half of the staff are either off sick or isolating, she said. This means some have had to temporarily close because they don't have enough employees working to meet the staff-to-child ratio required under provincial licensing, she said. 

Providing the tests to child-care providers might help with that if workers are able to know whether they have COVID-19 sooner, Kehl said.