Self-administered, take-home COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits are hotter in Toronto right now than freshly-dropped Jordans and bougie ice cream combined, if the long lineups for Ontario’s free distribution kiosks are any indication.
These tests are meant to provide an additional layer of protection against COVID-19 as the Omicron variant spreads like wildfire, but until very recently weren’t available without charge in Ontario (contrary to the advice of experts and what’s already happening in other provinces).
While useful, these tests aren’t 100 per cent accurate and are considered a supplement to existing public health measures. Those who test positive on a rapid test should still go to a testing centre or healthcare provider for a PCR test right away.
People are using these tests nonetheless to determine whether or not they should go to work, go to parties, go out and about or be around other people, and demand for them is rising.
Prior to the ongoing holiday pop-up testing blitz, only specific groups — including students and staff at publicly funded schools — could get the rapid antigen tests for free. Everyone else had to hoof it to Shopper’s Drug Mart or a similar store and pay $40 for the screening tool.
Ontarians can now pick up test kits for free at select LCBO locations and through pop-ups at high volume locations in malls, public transit stations and the like, but in order to do so they have to arrive early and wait in line to get a share of the limited supply.
Some folks are watching the government’s website or following Twitter accounts such as COVID Test Hunters like hawks to find out where they can score a free rapid kit, which usually comes with at least five tests each.
Others aren’t keen to wait for hours in line only to be told that there are no tests left and are exploring other options.
It is the apparent hope of some people that at least a few high-rolling Ontarians will be turning to resale sites such as Craigslist, Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace to bypass the system altogether.
One such hopeful capitalist posted an ad to Kijiji (reposted to Reddit) this weekend advertising two rapid antigen test kits for sale at $100 each. The fact that the poster specified they’d sourced the tests from their childrens’ school made people feel everything from uneasy to furious.
Another controversial post on TikTok shows someone bragging about how they just sold one of the kits for $200, and stories abound on Reddit of people selling free student test kids in private Facebook groups.
“I’ve messaged at least five of these folks on Facebook Marketplace and ghosted them after setting up a meeting time,” wrote one commenter on the Reddit thread mentioned above.
“I know that everyone is rightfully outraged that people are trying to sell these kits for a profit. But it also sort of makes my stomach churn knowing that there are desperate parents out there who could really use an extra $100 or $200 just before the holidays,” wrote another.
“No judgement from me, I’m just burnt out from the endless stream of misery these days.”
The Province of Ontario says it has distributed over 45 million free rapid tests to date at hospitals, schools and other congregate settings. Meanwhile, Kijiji, Facebook and Craigslist appear to be deleting all posts from people trying to sell these tests for profit.