Winnipeg elementary schools are surveying families to gauge interest in free rapid COVID-19 testing kits, anticipated to arrive just in time for students to return to classes after the winter break.
Late last week, the province announced it was beginning to distribute an initial shipment of 110,000 rapid antigen tests, which are packaged in kits of five, to K-6 schools located in First Nations and northern communities.
Officials indicated they are waiting to secure another duplicate order from the federal government, in addition to a separate request for 250,000 tests.
Since then, principals have been emailing parents to request those who are interested in receiving kits when they are made available to sign-up in order to streamline distribution.
Use of such kits is optional, and no there will be no reporting requirements attached.
In the Winnipeg School Division, administrators have been informing families the province anticipates rapid tests will be accessible after pupils return from their vacation Jan. 6.
“We don’t have a confirmed date when they will be arriving,” Radean Carter, spokeswoman for the division, said via email. “Our K-6 schools are surveying parents/guardians to see who wants a kit for their children (one per child), so that we can distribute… as soon as we get them from the province.”
The province’s youngest learners are being targeted for potential test use because they currently account for the largest percentage of COVID-19 cases in schools.
A total of 76 per cent of school-related cases involving students are currently among youth under 12, according to the province. Manitoba did not approve COVID-19 vaccine use for children ages five to 11 until November.
During the first two weeks of December, 409 student cases that were affiliated with schools were reported.