REGINA -- Saskatchewan is preparing to offer hundreds of thousands of rapid COVID-19 testing kits across the province.

According to a news release from the Government of Saskatchewan, the option will be available to asymptomatic individuals at walk-in, drive-thru, mobile or pop-up testing sites. Long-term and personal care homes, shelters, detox facilities, group homes, schools, EMS, fire, police, participating pharmacies and dental offices will also receive access to rapid testing.

“Many of these sectors may not have the capacity to use these tests on their own, so the Ministry of Health is working with SaskBuilds and Procurement to develop a Request for Pre-Qualifications (RFPQ) tender for third-party providers to deliver testing to these locations,” the province said in the news release.

The province was not able to give an exact date as to when the tests might roll out, because it is dependent on when they can find a provider to administer the tests.

Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone said the program could move forward faster in schools because public health nurses could deliver the tests.

“It won't be the same for everybody, accessing those tests, but we'll move forward as quickly as we can,” said Livingstone. 

The government has also made an amendment to exempt the potential sites from requiring a lab license to use the kits, which Livingstone said would have been a barrier to deploying the tests. 

“Because the test is simple and safe, they've lifted that regulation – which allows us to get to other areas a lot quicker. It still does require some training and individuals to do it and that's why [we have] the third-party RFPQ going out, to help those that don't have the assistance,” said Livingstone.

The province said it is exploring pop-up point of care testing sites, as well as the possibility for health care workers to test themselves weekly. The Ministry of Health and the SHA are working to ensure proper training allows these tests to be utilized to their best potential.

"We know that testing plays a crucial role in helping to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and now with variants of concern surfacing in our province it is more important than ever that testing is expanded to make it easier, quicker and more convenient to access,” said Minister of Health Paul Merriman.

Any rapid test that returns a positive result will require a retest using the PCR test.

The Opposition NDP said it was pleased to see a plan for rapid testing, but that the government’s announcement was light on details.

“There was no information on when this tool will actually be used in the fight against COVID-19,” said NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat. “The news today is better than nothing, but how is it that we have had access to these tests for months and they haven’t even finished developing a tender for delivery?”