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COVID-19 rapid antigen tests can’t be mailed due to temperature requirements: Peterborough MPP

Click to play video: 'Too cold in Peterborough-area to mail out rapid antigen tests' Too cold in Peterborough-area to mail out rapid antigen tests
We've all heard about the long line ups to get rapid antigen tests. And sometimes people waiting in line still leave empty handed. So why doesn't the province try a different approach? – Jan 6, 2022

Peterborough—Kawartha MPP Dave Smith says mailing COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits to Ontario residents now would not be logistical because the kits need to be transported and stored at above-freezing temperatures.

During Peterborough Public Health’s information session on Thursday, Smith acknowledged the long lineups in Peterborough for the free kits being distributed as part of a provincial pilot project.

He says he has received inquiries and viewed social media posts asking why the kits could not be mailed out, rather than having pickup sites and lineups outside in cold weather to get the limited supply.

Read more: Ontario has ‘not yet received’ delivery schedule for rapid tests from feds, premier’s office says

Smith said the testing fluid within a kit must remain between a range of 2 C to 30 C (as outlined by Ontario Health), making it logistically impossible to mail them across Ontario during the winter months.

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“In the month of December, we had one day in Peterborough when it was warm enough that we could have put them in the mail,” said Smith. “The other 30 days those tests would have been rendered useless. And it would have provided a false sense of security for people because it would have come back as a negative (result), simply because the testing fluid was rendered useless by dropping below the lowest temperature that it can operate at.”

Smith noted the last time Timmins in northern Ontario had weather above 2 C was on Nov. 4.

“It is logistically not possible to send them out in the mail because the tests would have been rendered absolutely useless,” he said.

Kits in Peterborough have been distributed at the Peterborough Farmers’ Market, Peterborough Public Library and Lansdowne Place mall since the pilot project started in late December 2021. But supplies quickly depleted, leaving hundreds without kits after standing in lineups — some for hours.

Smith notes the distribution process will improve once supplies of the kits improve.

“We have been short 15 million rapid tests that was supposed to come to Ontario have not shown up yet,” he said. “We have assurances from the manufacturer they will be coming. And when we have a good, steady supply of them, we’ll be able to distribute them better to more people, more effectively.”

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A positive result from a rapid antigen test needs to be followed up with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which is administered through the Peterborough Regional Health Centre’s COVID-19 assessment centre or a participating pharmacy, then sent to a lab for processing, to confirm the person has COVID-19. The PCR test must be done within 48 hours of a positive rapid antigen test.

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