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Canadians call for more rapid access to rapid antigen tests as Omicron fuels more holiday season anxiety

COVID-19: Canadians call for more rapid access to rapid antigen tests

Almost half say their own province is doing a poor job distributing rapid tests

December 20, 2021 – It’s beginning to look a lot like (last) Christmas. With cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant surging, governments are once again scrambling to provide guidelines and rules to navigate the holiday season.

One new element this year is what has been described as a “frenzied” search for rapid antigen tests, which many were hoping would add an extra layer of security to holiday gatherings.

Amid inconsistent supply and evolving distribution plans, new data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds nearly half of Canadians dissatisfied with the responses of their respective provincial governments on this file.

Overall, 46 per cent of residents say their own province has done a poor job providing rapid tests where they are needed. This proportion rises to majority levels in Alberta (54%), Manitoba (58%) and Ontario (52%), and is the plurality view in British Columbia and Quebec. Opinions are most positive in Atlantic Canada, where hundreds of thousands of tests were rushed out to schools and workplaces in recent weeks.

Some provinces have faced criticism for a perceived unwillingness to distribute stockpiles of tests which were delivered by the federal government, and in many cases, for requiring Canadians to pay costs for rapid testing. Three-in-five Canadians (63%) say their province should endeavour to make tests free and universal, while about one-in-five (18%) would prefer tests are used only to monitor higher risk spaces, conserving supply. Indeed, fully one-quarter (26%) say they have wanted to take a rapid test at some point during the pandemic but been unable to find or afford one.

More Key Findings:

  • One-in-three Canadians say they would like to see their own province institute more restrictions over the coming weeks, rising to 41 per cent in Ontario. Two-in-five (41%) feel their provincial restrictions are currently hitting the right mark, while 26 per cent say they go too far
  • Albertans are most likely to say that they have wanted a test but not received one (30%) and are also most critical of their provincial government’s COVID-19 handling overall. One-in-five (20%) say the UCP have done a good job to this point.
  • Three-in-five Canadians are concerned about becoming sick with COVID-19, a level essentially unchanged since the beginning of the month.

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