In an open letter (attached below) to Premier Furey and the Department of Health and Community Services, thirty four community organizations, healthcare providers, and volunteer groups across the province have put forward an urgent request for provision of a sustainable supply of free tests for vulnerable populations in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The lack of provision of rapid tests by our provincial government is concerning for all of us, but especially for those of us belonging to vulnerable populations. Right now, too many people in Newfoundland and Labrador are making hard decisions around navigating life with Covid-19. People living on low incomes are choosing between purchasing food, paying the power bill, and buying rapid tests. Low wage workers have to decide if they will miss work, and, without paid sick days or tests to determine if they are unwell, these decisions are even more difficult. People with limited resources are taking buses and paying for cabs trying to find rapid tests, all while they may be unwell. This is not equitable community health management.
Throughout the pandemic, the provincial government has been clear that they recognize testing as an important public health measure to limit spread of COVID-19, but the current options to acquire rapid tests in Newfoundland and Labrador are not accessible, equitable, or sustainable.
At this stage in the pandemic, provision of rapid tests is essential, and we believe that rapid test provision is a responsibility of our provincial government. Prioritizing access to rapid tests for our most vulnerable communities will contribute to COVID-19 risk mitigation for the entirety of our province. We strongly recommend an immediate investment in accessible and sustainable access to rapid tests for vulnerable populations in our province.
We have shared this urgent request directly with the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and with the Minister of Health and Community Services. We encourage people of the province to share this open letter, and write directly to government leadership to share your own concerns about access to rapid tests for those who need them in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Bridget Clarke, Advocacy Coordinator, St. John’s Status of Women Council