Premier Doug Ford announced on Sept. 23 that select pharmacies across south-western Ontario would begin to offer COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic individuals.
This decision was made due to the high demand of COVID-19 testing across the province, including the drive-through testing centre at the Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, which has received a large influx of customers to the point where visitors now must book an appointment to get tested.
Shoppers Drug Mart is currently the only pharmacy chain that will be offering COVID-19 testing in the Waterloo Region, with the listed locations being:
- 550 King St. N. in Waterloo.
- 235 Ira Needles Blvd. in Kitchener.
- 1500 King St. E. in Cambridge.
However, there is a strict criteria in place that people must meet to be tested. Individuals must be asymptomatic, residents or workers in a long-term care home or homeless shelter, international students who have quarantined for fourteen days, farmworkers, self-identified Indigenous Canadians, and more details on who meets the criteria on COVID-19 testing page on Shoppers Drug Mart’s website.
Renu Choudhary, the pharmacy manager of a Walmart location in Guelph, Ont., is optimistic of the government’s approach by allowing COVID-19 testing in pharmacies.
“We’re the most readily available health professionals, and it’s just a convenience to the public,” Choudhary said. “We have to go through vigorous protocols to ensure safety, and our protocols are very high.”
Despite testing taking place in pharmacies that are usually busy with regular customers, Choudhary is confident in its safety since asymptomatic individuals are the only ones permitted to receive testing and will be required to wear a mask and sanitize
Currently, Walmart is not offering COVID-19 testing at any of their locations in the Waterloo Region or anywhere in Ontario. However, five locations in Alberta are offering testing at Walmart pharmacies, so there is a possibility that the concept could expand to other provinces across Canada.
According to the newsroom on Ontario’s website, the main reason behind expanding COVID-19 testing to pharmacies is part of their plan called Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19, which will make sure that Ontarians have more options for testing to help them get tested for COVID-19 earlier rather than later.
With the addition of select pharmacies across the Waterloo Region offering COVID-19 testing, residents across the tri-cities will have easier access to COVID testing provided the requirements are met.