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'Everyone wants to be cautious': Demand for COVID-19 rapid tests spikes with Newmarket businesses

Newmarket Chamber of Commerce distributes 10,000 kits Dec. 16
20211216-Chamber rapid test distribution-JQ
Newmarket Chamber of Commerce staff distributed 10,000 rapid antigen test kits Dec. 16. Tyler Nakeff (from left), Jennifer Jennifer Buchanan, Chris Emanuel, Rosanne Antunes, Leslee Mason.

More local businesses sought out COVID-19 rapid antigen testing with the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce distributing 10,000 kits Dec. 16.

Chamber president and CEO Chris Emanuel said it is more than double the 4,000 distributed from a week before, and 2,000 averaged in weeks prior. The chamber distributed kits to 200 businesses in all this past week.

“You can definitely see a spike in the demand,” he said. “A lot of the businesses that are coming to us are restaurants, retailers, and manufacturing, as their employees may be coming into contact over the holidays … Obviously, the omicron news has probably created an increased demand. I think everyone is just being cautious.”

COVID-19 cases are rising in the province due to the omicron variant, prompting increased capacity restrictions at larger venues. The province has also launched a free rapid antigen test program, distributed at LCBO, malls and other locations, attracting high demand. 

“Rapid antigen screening is an additional layer of protection to proactively identify cases and mitigate community transmission, while we continue to strengthen our vaccine rollout to protect ourselves and loved ones,” Minister of Health Christine Elliott said in a news release.

Chambers of commerce have distributed kits for businesses since the summer, as part of a government support program

Emanuel said there is worry among the local business community as the provincial COVID-19 situation has worsened in the past week.

“Everyone wants to be cautious. I also think really hoping they won’t face a shutdown again, and hoping that the province will do everything they can to avoid that,” Emanuel said. “One of the biggest concerns, too, is just the unpredictable nature of how things have been around shutdowns."

Emanuel said they are unsure if they will get any further supply of test kits for businesses this month, given the impact on the supply chain with the provincial testing blitz. But businesses can visit newmarketchamber.ca for updates or sign up for January kits.

The province announced new public health restrictions Dec. 17, including 50 per cent capacity limits at many indoor public settings, closing bars and restaurants at 11 p.m. and prohibiting food and drink at several larger venues types. 

Emanuel said new public health restrictions should be accompanied by support measures.

“Hopefully, further restrictions won’t be necessary,” he said. “But any restrictions have to come with support from the province, and that comes in the way of either grants, loans, forgiveness, rental abatement programs and other potential wage subsidies because businesses cannot survive another round of restrictions and lockdown.”