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U of T’s COVID-19 rapid test program put on hold due to lack of kits

Rapid screening kits will still be provided for those with approved vaccine exemptions
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The Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre at UTM. ASIF AISHA IBRAHIM/THE VARSITY
The Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre at UTM. ASIF AISHA IBRAHIM/THE VARSITY

U of T’s at-home rapid antigen screening has been put on pause “due to a lack of supply,” according to the university website, as national shortages of COVID-19 rapid tests make them increasingly difficult to obtain. This program was originally put in place to screen members of the U of T community who fall under one of two categories: those who are not fully vaccinated  and those with a valid vaccination exemption that the university has approved. 

The rapid testing program 

Previously, those using the rapid test kits were required to screen themselves at least two times each week and report all screen test results on UCheck. Tests were meant to be taken at home and a negative test result was needed to come to campus. U of T encouraged fully vaccinated community members to participate in the program as well, if they wanted to. 

In an email to The Varsity, a spokesperson for the university wrote that, at the current moment, only a small number of employees have not already been fully vaccinated. “For those few who have approved exemptions, they must still use rapid-testing [kits] if they need to be on campus,” wrote the spokesperson. 

The spokesperson clarified that kits will still be available to any member of the community who requires a test due to an approved exemption. In addition, they wrote that U of T will provide pick-up locations for the rest of the community on all three campuses “when supply becomes available.” 

Pop-up distribution sites on campus

One solution to the shortage of rapid test kits has been the creation of pop-up rapid test distribution sites. On January 6, the Ontario government designated UTM’s Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre building as the location for a free drive through where people could pick up COVID-19 rapid tests. Test kits were made available for  individuals who had not recently been in contact with anyone that had contracted COVID-19. Distribution was limited to one test kit per person, and anyone visiting was told to wear a mask and to follow all other public health measures. 

By about 9:30 am, all the tests had been handed out. Some attendees were very frustrated with the situation, saying that more test kits should be made available for postsecondary students. 

As of right now, no further details have been released on when more rapid testing kits will be available for the U of T community.