OTTAWA -- Amid the third wave of COVID-19, many Ottawa small businesses have been shut down or operating at a limited capacity for over a month now.

When the stay-at-home order ends and they're allowed to reopen, businesses will have free access to a new tool – rapid COVID-19 testing.

At Savoy Brasserie in Westboro, the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the latest lockdown has taken a toll.

"The last month has been the worst of all the lockdown," said Chris Ibey, owner of Savoy Brasserie. "The sales are dipping big time, there’s not as much business, people aren’t coming, they’re not doing the takeout, they’re not doing delivery as much."

He's hopeful his restaurant will reopen soon, and is also welcoming a new provincial initiative providing access to rapid COVID tests for staff.

“We’re here to help, we’re on the same page, we’ll put up visors, we’ll wear the glasses, we’ll do the contact tracing, whatever we can do to help, so if it means rapid testing our staff, great! That’s another positive tool we have to try to get ahead of this," said Ibey.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce and Ottawa Board of Trade will soon help provide free rapid antigen tests for small and medium sized businesses, aimed at helping mitigate asymptomatic spread.

"This is an extra tool that businesses can use to protect their workforce, lower the cases, curb the spread and keep businesses open,” said Sueling Ching, President and CEO of the Ottawa Board of Trade.

The initiative comes as small businesses struggle in every corner of the province. Business advocates predicted one in six small firms would close due to the second wave, and the third wave will hurt even more.

"The worry is even deepening and more business owners will say, 'You know what, there’s no pathway back to having any sort of profitability for some time,'" said Dan Kelly, President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

"This lockdown, mentally has been the most challenging for owners and our team," said Tanya Hill, owner of Tappa Hair Salon.

She welcomes the new rapid testing plan, hopeful it will help keep salons open. But Hill says this program should have been introduced sooner.

“This is a tool we would’ve welcomed weeks ago, and something we’ve sending emails and letters and asking for,” said Hill.

With everything now available to help fight COVID, small business owners are closer to believing the end is near.

"We are very hopeful that we open on the 20th," said Hill.

"It’s not sustainable, we can’t do this forever," added Ibey.

The current stay at home order in Ontario is set to expire on May 20, the province has not yet said whether measures will be extended.