Rapid antigen tests becoming available but not fully reliable

The Ontario government announced a plan this week to make 44 million free rapid COVID-19 tests available to the public over the next eight weeks.

The initiative, which began Wednesday, February 9th, will see participating grocery stores and pharmacies across the province providing the tests to the general public for at-home use. More on this initiative can be found here.

We would like to remind the community that our public health’s recommendations for testing remain unchanged.

PCR testing is only appropriate, and recommended, in the following scenarios:

1.    You have COVID-19 related symptoms and you are eligible for PCR testing;

2.    Public health has let you know that you are a Close Contact to someone who has COVID-19, based on a thorough risk assessment completed only by Public Health. Determining who is a close contact is a decision that can only be made by Public Health.

We discourage people from relying on the results of rapid antigen tests; if you’re sick, stay home whether you test positive or negative.

We also discourage asymptomatic testing. If you choose to participate in this voluntary asymptomatic testing strategy (which we do not suggest), please be aware of the risks and challenges related to such testing:

·  Rapid Antigen Tests are not very reliable

  • The accuracy of the tests is a challenge. A negative test is not an indication of truly being negative, and a positive test is not a guarantee of the test being positive
  • A false positive may cause significant and unintended anxiety in families linked to the false positive. Self-isolation, inability to attend work, and fear/anxiety are real outcomes of a false positive.
  • Most concerning, a false negative can contribute to further spreading of the virus due to false reassurance.

·  Testing in people who have no symptoms increases the likelihood of false positives.

For more information on COVID-19 in general, please visit the Grey Bruce Health Unit website at (publichealthgreybruce.on.ca).