Some parents are calling for rapid tests to be made readily available, and free to kids, to help avoid outbreaks in Ottawa's schools.

Stephen MacDonald has two kids in school, but that's not where they are this week.

“There have been a number of cohorts that are closed,” says MacDonald. “So two of my kids have had, on a rotating basis over the last few weeks, they’ve been home. Identified as high-risk contacts.”

His school, along with 17 others in the capital are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. Many are wondering why rapid tests are not flooding the school system.

"I’m left wondering why we don’t have it and why we don’t have access to it when so many other places are using this," says MacDonald. "They only just started vaccinating kids now, 5 to 11 now. And children under five aren’t vaccinated. And so if this is the unvaccinated segment of society, why is this tool not being applied and used for them. Why is it being reserved and handed out elsewhere."

NDP leader Andrea Horwath wants to see more access to the rapid tests.

"We can make the holidays safer for folks by providing rapid tests," says Horwath. "They are a tool that should be being used freely, and made available everywhere so anyone can get one whenever and whenever they need it."

The Ontario government insists they’ve used millions of rapid tests, but other provinces seem to have a more aggressive testing strategy. In Ontario, pharmacies charge $40 per test.

"These tests have been deployed across the province," says Health Minister Christine Elliot. "They’re not sitting in a warehouse. They are being used. They are available to people who need to receive them in assessment centres and pharmacies. In primary care. In work places. In congregate settings. Wherever they need them."

Premier Doug Ford says millions of tests are on the way to Ontario schools.

"We’re also giving 11 million kits, five packs to students to bring home," says Ford. "And so they can get tested, their family can get tested. We’re giving out about a million tests every single week."

MacDonald wonders why he’s never seen or used a rapid test; but is looking forward to using them, to help keep his family safe.

"They’re supposed to hand out some for the holiday period," says MacDonald. "But the government really needs to be handing out a lot more to a lot more people so that people have this as a tool."