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Manitoba to make free COVID-19 rapid tests available at First Nation schools

Click to play video: 'Manitoba to make free COVID-19 rapid tests available at First Nation schools' Manitoba to make free COVID-19 rapid tests available at First Nation schools
Manitoba is making COVID-19 rapid tests available for free to First Nations schools leading into the holiday season – Dec 17, 2021

Manitoba is making COVID-19 rapid tests available for free to First Nations schools leading into the holiday season.

The government announced Friday the tests will at first be available to students in kindergarten to Grade 6 at 57 schools on First Nations, as well as six schools in the north, before eventually  making them available at all schools across the province.

Read more: COVID-19: Eligible Manitobans struggle to find booster shots before the holidays

“We know many children under the age of 11 have not yet had the chance to become fully immunized, which is why are targeting the tests to younger students,” Education Minister Cliff Cullen said in a government release Friday.

“As we receive more tests, we will provide kits to other school divisions to ensure we can keep schools open and a safe place for children to learn.”

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Officials urge Manitobans to get COVID-19 booster quickly as data shows exponential Omicron growth – Dec 15, 2021

Each kit will contain five tests. Officials say parents can test their children every three or four days as they return to school after the winter break.

“While our best tools for families to celebrate safely this holiday season are still vaccination, staying home when you are sick, mask use and reducing contacts, rapid tests are another tool that can be used to help screen for cases and provide peace of mind to parents and caregivers,” Health Minister Audrey Gordon said in the release.

“Based on the supply we have, we have started to provide rapid test kits to First Nations schools and will expand the distribution to other K to 6 students across the province as we receive more tests.”

Read more: Support for COVID-19 lockdowns dwindles as Omicron spreads across Canada, poll finds

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The department of central services said the province has secured 110,000 individual tests from the federal government with another 110,000 expected to arrive soon.

The kits are being made available to communities on a voluntary basis and will be distributed through the schools.

The department said 22,000 students are eligible to use the kits. However, the initial amount won’t cover the entire population.

“We are providing kits to these harder to reach parts of the province that take longer to get to and supply options may be disrupted so we’re taking advantage of the reasonable weather now to get these out to these communities,” the department said.

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The province’s education department said the majority of COVID-19 cases in schools involve children under the age of 12 and elementary schools have had the most outbreaks.

The province was not able to say when rapid tests would be available to other schools, but noted distribution would be based on several factors, including vaccination rates, vulnerability risks and location.

Read more: Manitoba reports highest fourth wave daily COVID-19 case count for 2nd day in a row

The province also said it started with the north because of the higher rate of vulnerability to COVID-19 in Indigenous communities.

Officials are working to find the most effective way to make testing kits more widely available to others in Manitoba, the province added in its release.

–With files from Brittany Hobson at The Canadian Press

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, visit our coronavirus page.

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