OTTAWA -- With all of the focus on vaccinations, some businesses are choosing to add rapid testing to keep their doors open.  A program that gives businesses access to these tests is being expanded.

The Ottawa Board of Trade is expanding its antigen rapid testing kit distribution program until March 2022, supported by the Ontario government, after handing out more than 52,000 individual tests to almost 450 businesses.

"We have to find a way to live with COVID, we don’t know when this is going to end; but, we know that we cannot sustain these provincial wide lockdowns," says Sueling Ching, President and CEO of the Ottawa Board of Trade. 

"We see as a strategy in a suite of strategies in order to keep our businesses open; to avoid the lockdowns and to help support our economic recovery, while keeping our population safe."

Ross Video is a high-tech company that has offices in Ottawa, and a manufacturing facility in Iroquois, Ont. Rapid tests are mandatory at their facilities,

"It raises the level of confidence amongst our employees, that we are doing everything humanly possible to protect not only them, but their families and our community at large," says Christopher Stone, Health, Safety and Disability Specialist at Ross.

"If we had an outbreak at our manufacturing facility, it would be very bad."

Stone says through the rapid testing program, they’ve completed approximately 15,000 tests; employees are tested every three days.    

Ottawa Public Health says that rapid testing is considered, "an additional COVID-19 screening option and does not replace other required public health measures including self-screening, staying home when ill, masking, physical distancing & hand hygiene."

OPH adds that, "If a rapid antigen test is presumptive positive, then the individual must go for a PCR test at a testing assessment centre."

Recipe Unlimited, which owns chain restaurants like Harvey’s, Montana’s, Kelseys, and the Bier Markt has made testing mandatory at all of their corporately owned locations, and it’s been "highly adopted" at franchisee owned locations according to the company.

"We wanted to add an extra layer of protection for our staff, and the guests, and staff’s family; and, we thought a rapid testing program would do that," says Peter Chase, General Manager and Operating Partner at the Bier Markt.

For hostess Amanda Schmidt, who works at the Bier Markt, she says it offers an additional layer of protection.

"I did have a few other friends who were working at other restaurants, and this wasn’t a thing; so, I felt really comfortable and it is something that actually incentivized me to want to work here."

To date, they have completed 145,000 tests across Canada at both Corporate and Franchise owned locations, according to Recipe Unlimited.   

The tests are available for businesses through the Ottawa Board of Trade, as well as the province.

While OPH is not directly involved with rapid antigen testing, they do have additional information on their site