'Really frustrating': Sask. residents still waiting for COVID-19 self-test kits to become available
While province is expecting a shipment of 2.6 million rapid antigen tests this week, many residents are still waiting to get their hands on the at-home kits.
Starting this week, government officials say more than 1.3 million free rapid self-test kits will be available for the general public to pick up at participating locations, including some fire halls, local chambers of commerce and SHA testing centres.
Once pick-up sites receive a shipment of tests, the location and pick-up times will be added to a list on the government website.
As of Tuesday at noon, no locations were listed.
However, one Regina mother is upset after she says the website originally indicated the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce would have test kits available for pickup Monday afternoon.
When Loreena Spilsted went to get her kit, a sign on the chamber doors said, “Rapid test kits are not yet available at this location.”
“It’s really frustrating,” Spilsted said.
“Everyone in our house is vaccinated except for our one son who’s under 12. You want to do what you can to make sure that you’re safe and you don’t want to go looking (for a rapid test kit) the day you need it.”
According to the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, it is expecting a shipment of rapid test kits; however, it does not know when.
Residents who are interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org to be notified when they arrive.
Most test kits are expected to arrive Wednesday and Thursday, according to the Ministry of Health.
“We did have a little bit of a challenge with dispersing the rapid tests and getting them to communities but that will happen later this week,” Premier Scott Moe told CTV News.
Ministry officials say pick-up locations were removed from the website and will not be listed until kits are available in order to prevent unnecessary foot-traffic at the sites.
The government list will also update places for residents to purchase a COVID-19 test in order to provide a negative test result under the province’s policy, according to Moe.
The Regina and District Chamber of Commerce will also serve as another pick-up location for free self-test kits.
“We’ve already had a lot of people come here and ask us for kits or phone, so there’s a lot of demand that’s out there,” said John Hopkins, Regina Chamber CEO.
“As far as we’re concerned, if there are people that want test kits and we have them available we’ll distribute them.”
However, Hopkins says he does not know how many test kits they will receive.
In Saskatoon and Regina, fire halls are not taking part in distributing at-home test kits, according to city officials.
“As details on the program came together, a decision was made not to participate based on the fact that SFD fire stations remain closed to the general public, except for emergencies, as a means of limiting points of contact with the public for our staff’s safety,” said Saskatoon Fire Department chief Morgan Hackl.
Fire halls in both cities have been closed to the public since the start of the pandemic due to safety reasons.
Officials are asking residents who are seeking self-test kits to not call or visit the fire stations.
In a press release, the government says test availability will be based on the locations’ hours of operation and supply.
Kits will be limited to one per household and handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Another 360,000 tests will be provided to First Nations communities across the province, according to the Ministry of Health.
Saskatchewan schools will also receive a new supply of 720,000 tests.
Spokespeople for both Regina Catholic and public schools say their supplies have been exhausted. Some schools ran out of test kits within one day, while many more have waiting lists.
The remainder of the 2.6 million kits will go to congregate living facilities, healthcare workers and businesses registered with the SHA for a workplace surveillance program.
These self-test kits will not be accepted for the negative test requirement as part of Saskatchewan’s proof of vaccination or negative test result policy.