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Chamber waiting on word of rapid test delivery date

The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce ran out of free rapid antigen tests for businesses on Christmas Eve, and have not yet been told when they can expect to be restocked.
Charla Robinson
Charla Robinson, president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (Leith Dunick,

THUNDER BAY – The global rapid test shortage has hit the Thunder Bay business community.

Charla Robinson, president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, says they’ve given out 71,000 free tests to local companies, but the shelves have been bare since Christmas Eve – and there’s no indication when they might get a fresh supply.

The federal government has promised to ship 140 million tests by month’s end, but with schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities at the front of the line – and rightfully so, said Robinson – the Chamber is left unclear and when their next delivery will occur.

“About 34,000 tests is what we’re waiting for right now,” Robinson said on Monday, nine days before the province’s Stage 2 COVID-19 closure order is scheduled to expire.

Having tests in hand would go a long way to ensuring businesses can reopen safely, she said.

“Rapid tests are such an important tool to try to keep the virus from spreading in the workplace because we know many are asymptomatic when they’re spreading the virus. It’s really important to have this took, but unfortunately what we’re hearing from the government is we really have no indication when those tests may be available for the chambers to distribute,” Robinson said.

Senior levels of government partnered with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to provided free rapid test for small- and medium-sized businesses, those with 150 or fewer employees.

The program began last May.

“In the weeks leading up to Christmas, it was huge, 6,000 tests a day going out the doors until we ran out. There was certainly a real awareness beginning within the business community that these tests are vital to staying open,” Robinson said.

“We totally agree the province should prioritize tests for health care, long-term care, schools, those sorts of things, and we understand that might add to the delay, but we are also stressing how important this is to help keep workplaces open as much as possible by having these tests available.”

Robinson said she’s also looking for clarification from the province as to what yardsticks are being used in the decision-making process going forward – as well as ample warning for businesses if things are going to change on Jan. 26.

Restaurants are currently closed to indoor dining and gyms, theatres and casinos are closed altogether, under Stage 2 orders.

Others are faced with strict capacity limits.

“We’ve been pushing the province to give us the plan. What are the metrics? What are we trying to achieve for (them) to make the decision as to if we open on the 26th or not. At this point we don’t have any clear direction as to what is that point where the government will say, yes, we can open on the 26th, or no, we need to extend,” Robinson said.

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