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Ontario to give out free COVID-19 rapid tests at grocery stores, sources say

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Ontario will give out free COVID-19 rapid tests at grocery stores across the province, sources say.

Sources within the Ontario government said approximately five million rapid tests will be handed out per week.

There will be a limit of one kit per family visit and each kit will contain five rapid tests, they say.

Further details about the rollout of the rapid tests were not immediately available, but the government is expected to make the official announcement on Wednesday.

Sources said the government is aiming to align handing out the free tests with the next step of the reopening, which happens on Feb. 21.

The news comes on the same day the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Board Table released a video containing instructions on how to administer the tests at home.

In late December, the Ontario government announced significant revisions to its COVID-19 testing guidelines.

It was announced that publicly funded PCR tests would only be available to high-risk individuals who are symptomatic and/or are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The province also announced that rapid tests would be prioritized for hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes, and other high-risk settings.

The new guidelines led to a plummet in testing volumes within the province. Demand for tests at the end of last year saw a high of more than 75,000, while an average of 21,433 tests have been processed each day over the past week, according to provincial data.

Ontario has received 80 million rapid tests to date, and has so far distributed 75 million across a variety of sectors, including health care, education, and retail.

On Tuesday, Ontario reported 2,254 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 274 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) with the virus.

With files from CTV News Toronto's Colin D'Mello.

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