Thousands of people lined up in the early morning hours in Barrhaven on Tuesday to pick up COVID-19 rapid tests, but many were turned away empty-handed.

The lineups started as early as 4 a.m. at the Minto Recreation Complex at Cambrian and Greenbank roads. Several callers told CTV News Ottawa that the first 1,000 people in line were given wristbands and told to return later today. The people with wristbands were lined back up at the complex just before noon, when the tests were set to be handed out.

Rapid tests Barrhaven

Everyone else was turned away. One caller to the CTV Ottawa newsroom said the lineup of cars stretched several kilometres down nearby Greenbank Road, and the parking lot was jammed full of cars well before 7 a.m.

The issue was a shipment delay. A spokesperson for the health ministry said the shipping delay is resolved.

Nicholas Belisle lined up at 6 a.m. to get his hands on what may be one of the most in-demand items this Christmas.

"Last time I waited in a line that long was for Sens playoffs tickets in 2007 - when they made the cup final."

He says there were already more than 600 people in the queue when he arrived Tuesday morning.

"I just spent last weekend with several hundred children in Montreal for my job, so I wanted to be (tested) for my family. This will put me in a peace of mind."


Ariana Rochford left her car a kilometre away because of the traffic. She walked for 15 minutes to get to the line, but didn't end up getting a test.

"There were a lot of people in the parking lot not knowing what to do, or where to go. Finally, we found out that there was a lineup somewhere in the residential street - so not even in the parking lot of Minto," she said.

Christine Rose was the 10th person in line, arriving at 4:45 a.m.

"Just as a small precaution, every little bit helps … before meeting for Christmas, a small group," she explained.

The Ontario government is running pop-ups across the province to distribute free rapid antigen tests.

The Minto Recreation Complex is the only location announced in Ottawa so far. The province said the tests would be available at 7 a.m. Tuesday through Friday this week. A sign at the rec centre tells people seeking the tests to return Wednesday at 7 a.m. 

Nine other locations are expected to be announced in the coming days. Medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said last week province has chosen 10 pop-up sites in Ottawa to distribute rapid tests. The province says it updates its online list every Friday.

Last week, the province handed out rapid test kits through 100 LCBO stores, including seven in Ottawa. Hundreds lined up for those Friday morning only to be told they were not available. The tests arrived later in the day.