Manitoba expands COVID-19 rapid antigen testing for critical service workers

Program expanded to symptomatic workers in critical services

Manitoba expands COVID-19 rapid antigen testing for critical service workers

Manitoba is expanding its COVID-19 rapid antigen testing program to include symptomatic workers in designated critical services.

Eligibility for rapid antigen tests is being expanded to include all designated staff in critical service areas who are symptomatic and work:

  • in early learning and child-care facilities;
  • with Community Living disABILITY Services service providers;
  • with child and family services group care providers;
  • in homeless and family violence shelters;
  • in Manitoba Families, working in front-line positions with clients; and
  • as school teachers or staff with direct and ongoing or prolonged contact with kindergarten to Grade 12 students.

“This expanded use of rapid antigen tests supplied by the province for critical service areas is intended to enhance access to testing for designated workers and allow them to return to work sooner,” said Rochelle Squires, minister of families. “Tests will be provided for all designated staff in critical service areas who are symptomatic and work directly with clients and vulnerable populations.”

Currently, rapid tests are provided for asymptomatic designated staff under public health orders who have not provided proof that they are fully vaccinated. This includes school and licensed child-care facility personnel, public servants who regular have direct and ongoing or prolonged direct contact with vulnerable populations, child and family service personnel and funded agency personnel in direct contact with vulnerable populations, among others.

Because of the limited supply of rapid tests, kits will not be made available for healthy staff to have on hand in case they become ill, according to the government. Tests will be provided directly to staff who are already showing COVID-19 symptoms and are scheduled to work in the near future (within three days).

Meanwhile, home-based early learning and child care providers who become symptomatic and would like to access testing supplies should contact their child care coordinator.

School staff

On top of the rapid antigen testing for symptomatic staff in schools, Manitoba Education will also be implementing a testing program for asymptomatic teachers, staff and kindergarten to Grade 12 students at Manitoba schools experiencing high case numbers or high levels of absenteeism.

 Schools will provide rapid antigen tests to students and staff identified as potentially exposed as part of the cluster or outbreak, or who are part of a classroom/cohort with a concerning level of cases or absenteeism, according to the government.

“This expansion of rapid antigen testing in schools is an additional measure we are putting in place to support ongoing, in-person learning for students across the province,” said Cliff Cullen, minister of education. 

“We all sincerely appreciate service providers’ ongoing efforts and hard work to provide quality care and services, and I want to thank all designated critical service workers for their continued commitment to caring for, supporting and protecting vulnerable Manitobans during these challenging times.”

Several schools in different parts of the country have previously announced they experienced COVID-19 outbreaks among students and staff.


Despite the added protection for many workers, one union is not happy with the latest announcement from the Manitoba government.

“Again, the transit system is not essential [and] also is exempt from all COVID safety [measures],” said the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1505 in a tweet.

The union added that “there are already too many bus operators [who are getting] sick to keep buses running”.

ATU Local 1505 also challenged Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson to experience for herself the conditions that bus drivers face on a daily basis.

“Spend a day on a bus,” the union told the premier.

In August 2021, the federal government announced it has partnered with local pharmacies to provide rapid antigen test kits to small and medium-size employers in different parts of the country.