After facing heavy criticism rapid COVID-19 tests will be available in some schools across the province.

The tests will only be available in areas where there are high rates of the virus as determined by the local Medical Officer of Health.

The tests will be voluntary for unvaccinated children and students in schools and licensed child care settings. Local health units will make the decision of whether they are needed based on the spread of the virus in their regions.

The rapid tests will be for unvaccinated, asymptomatic people only and won’t be given to people who are vaccinated. They will be available for use next week.

The tests will be done at home with instructions on how to do them.  If the test shows a negative result, children will be able to go to school as usual.  If a positive test result is returned, then the child must go to an assessment centre and get a PCR test.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, says it’s all about keeping schools open and safe, “Targeted asymptomatic screening has the potential to detect cases in schools earlier and reduce the risk of outbreaks and closures, particularly in communities across the province that have a high prevalence of active COVID-19 cases.  Expanding access to rapid antigen screening may be another way to help keep schools safer and students in the classroom. I continue to encourage everyone who has yet to get their first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccination to do so as soon as you can to increase our level of community immunity and protect our students and young Ontarians who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine.”

As of Monday, there were 816 schools in the province with at least one case of COVID-19, and five have been closed because of outbreaks.