Ontario Independent

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Ontarians wait in line outside LCBOs for free COVID-19 rapid tests

In search of free COVID-19 rapid tests, Ontarians queue outside LCBOs.

Key takeaways:

  • COVID-weary Ontarians queued outside liquor stores for antigen tests rather than alcohol, as a traditional holiday errand was given a pandemic makeover.
  • Hazel Brown also hoped to get rapid tests to be a little safer while visiting her family over the holidays.

On Friday, a traditional holiday errand was given a pandemic makeover, with COVID-weary Ontarians queuing outside liquor stores for antigen tests rather than alcohol.

Many people, however, went home empty-handed – or with a little booze to make the wait worthwhile – as demand for test kits far outstripped supply sent to LCBO locations across the province.

At 9 a.m. on Friday, a line wrapped around the block at the Toronto store Alexis Gosselin had staked out. She estimated that a couple of hundred people had beaten her to the spot — and it was all for naught.

“When word got up the line that they didn’t have any tests, the line just kind of dissipated,” Gosselin explained. “I figured since I was already there, I’d go to the LCBO.”

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According to a clerk, the store had tests on Thursday, but they were gone within an hour, and employees had no idea when their next shipment would arrive.

“It’s extremely frustrating because we’re hoping to get together with my husband’s mother, who is 85 years old, and it’d be nice if we could take a test beforehand before we infect his mother,” she explained.

Her two adolescent children each took five school tests home. Before the holiday break, the province sent a kit of five tests home with all public school students.

Gosselin is now rethinking her strategy.

“Do we buy some, find some, steal some from the kids?” she wondered. “I’m not sure what we’re going to do,” says the narrator.

Premier Doug Ford stated that the province is pushing the rapid tests out as quickly as possible.

“I apologize to the people in line; they vanished like a flash,” he said on Friday afternoon.

Ford stated that Ontario is pleading with the federal government to obtain more rapid tests and that the province will receive an additional 10 million on December 27.

For its part, the LCBO stated that it was working on getting tests into stores.

“We expect most stores to receive supplies today,” an LCBO spokesperson said in an email Friday. “However, we cannot confirm exact arrival times at each location and do expect our limited supply to go quickly.”

The Crown corporation ended up tweeting locations that were out of stock, but not those with kits on hand.

As she began her work-from-home day, Stacy Peuhkurinen turned to another Twitter account — COVID Test Finders — for assistance.

Outside LCBOs, Ontarians wait in line for free COVID-19 rapid tests
Outside LCBOs, Ontarians wait in line for free COVID-19 rapid tests. Image from Yahoo News

After her first visit to an LCBO proved fruitless, she kept refreshing the page. The account was sending out updates from people working at LCBOs all over the province, many of which showed long lines and the supply situation at each location. Many stores that didn’t have test kits put up improvised signs to dissuade the hopeful crowds.

She eventually decided to “camp out” at an outlet, where she parked her car with a clear view of the doors.

She finally got her hands on a test at 1 p.m., but only after seeing people leaving the store with the telltale little boxes. According to her, the sign outside the store still stated that no tests were available.

Peuhkurinen said the tests were worthwhile because she hoped to see her father and his wife over the holidays.

“It seems like this Omicron doesn’t care if you’re vaccinated or not,” said Peuhkurinen, who received her booster on Thursday. “All I’m trying to do is stay safe.”

Hazel Brown also hoped to get rapid tests to be a little safer while visiting her family over the holidays.

She couldn’t even get into the parking lot at the first location she tried on Thursday morning — the province is also giving out tests at certain malls and other high-traffic areas because it was so crowded.

“People were encircling the parking lot and spilling out onto the street,” she said. “As a result, I didn’t bother going in because I assumed they’d have a limited supply.”

On Friday, she had better luck at an LCBO, arriving early for a chance to get test kits she wasn’t sure would be available because the store was closed when she arrived.

Those in line saw a welcome sight through the big windows at the front of the store a half-hour or so later, she said: a man with three large boxes on a dolly.

“OK!” she exclaimed. “It’s ridiculous how it feels like you’ve won the lottery or something.”

Source: Global News

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