Albertans scramble to find free COVID-19 antigen test kits following provincial rollout


A day after the province rolled out free COVID-19 antigen test kits for Albertans, there is mounting frustration from pharmacies and people wanting a kit.

Kim Bremault said she is lucky to have found an antigen test kit at this south Edmonton pharmacy on Saturday.

“I’ve been looking for antigen tests all morning so this is my eleventh pharmacy,” Bremault explained.

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She was one of many Albertans not able to make it out on Friday to a participating pharmacy.

“I live in Spruce Grove and there’s none in spruce or stony, so I was told to come to the city and I was working so I couldn’t make it.”

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The province made half a million kits available for Albertans but the demand has been overwhelming and now many pharmacies are out of stock.

“The whole day was a complete disaster for every one of us because we were having a huge amount of clients coming to collect those free kits,” pharmacist Momen El Ghazouli said.

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The pharmacist said people have not been coming in to pick up just one or two kits but more like five to nine kits, per person.

“I read the email from the government twice and there’s nothing mentioned about, as long as they are family members and they give you [Alberta healthcare] numbers you have to distribute the kits,” El Ghazouli said.

El Ghazouli said he wished the province would have limited it to one kit per person, per visit.

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“The problem is I’m going to give nine to you, then another person would only need one test for himself but I wasn’t able to give that because (we’re) all out,” El Ghazouli said.

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NDP health critic David Shepherd is critical of the rollout too.

“They created this rush program that unfortunately left thousands outside waiting in the cold yesterday to try and get tests. Some places didn’t get any at all, in fact, there were whole communities that had no tests available at all, ” Shepherd said.

Strathcona County councillor Lorne Harvey said many rural Albertans are disappointed as well, as the kits aren’t readily available in their communities.

“I don’t think it would have been much more difficult for the province to get them out to surrounding communities in the region,” Harvey said.

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In a statement on Friday, a spokesperson for Alberta Health said pharmacies will receive more rapid test kits early next week. As more tests become available from Health Canada, Alberta Health said more locations and shipments will be added.

As for those still trying to track down a kit, the hunt is on.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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