The Manitoba government is launching a new coronavirus rapid testing centre for school teachers and staff working directly with students.
The pilot program, called Fast Pass, will launch its first site on Jan. 18 at 1066 Narin Ave., and offer appointment-based rapid tests for those who qualify, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson and Education Minister Cliff Cullen announced on Thursday.
“Offering a dedicated testing stream to people working in schools will allow us to quickly identify any cases of COVID-19, enabling faster contact tracing and helping us to reduce spread in our schools and community,” Stefanson said in a press release.
“The launch of our first Fast Pass site will provide our education system with the reassurance that there is a dedicated testing option to support timely access to COVID-19 results.”
The first Fast Pass site will initially be open to staff working in schools from the Winnipeg, Seven Oaks, River East Transcona, Seine River, and Hanover school divisions.
Other school divisions will be able to access the site in February.
“We want teachers and school staff to be able to focus on their students and to continue providing quality education to our young Manitobans,” Cullen said.
“The Fast Pass program will help keep our schools safe by ensuring faster notifications of positive cases and giving our school staff the confidence that they are COVID-19 free when they return to work.”
Teachers, educational support staff and other staff working in schools and directly with students, including bus drivers, custodians and child care staff working in school-based early learning and child care facilities are eligible to book appointments.
The province said those eligible must be symptomatic, identified as a close contact as a result of an exposure at school, or have a symptomatic household member.
The site will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
The province is expecting to book up to 40 appointments a day for the first week, eventually hoping to offer as many as 160 tests a day.
Same-day test results will be available online.
The province said it will be evaluating the Fast Pass program, with plans to potentially expand to other locations in Manitoba, including Winkler and Brandon.