• COVID-19: Rapid testing policy weighs on New Brunswick businesses

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    The Saint John Chamber of Commerce has distributed at least 40,000 rapid COVID-19 testing kits to 850 companies — a measure of success for its CEO, David Duplisea.

    However, Duplisea said the chamber is aware of employers who are facing issues with employees not seeking a confirmative PCR test as mandated by Public Health guidelines.
    “The Department of Health guidelines are that they must call 811 and perform a PCR test and then report that PCR test back — that’s where the communications gap is coming in,” he said in an interview Tuesday.
    “There is a disconnect. Some people, we’ve heard, are not then reporting the federal or provincial department of health for the PCR test.”
    It’s prompted swift action by the government who announced fines will be issued to those who do not seek a PCR test after a positive rapid test result.
    Those fines range anywhere from $400 to $20,000.
    Premier Blaine Higgs said on Thursday the rapid tests are a valuable tool, “but they only work if used properly and if people follow up on a positive result quickly.”
    However, Duplisea said it only places strain on business already struggling to stay afloat. He said with low uptake on jobs because of government assistance programs, resistance to mandatory vaccinations and now the rapid testing rules, businesses are feeling the burden.
    “It does place a burden on employers,” he said. “You have employers who say I’ve had employee for 12 years, one of my best employees and they don’t want to get vaccinated and they don’t want to get tested and the employer is left with, ‘OK, now you have a very high risk here.'”
    He said all of the restrictions right now are designed to get people to get vaccinated.
    “The second challenge is again vaccination and then the rapid testing — it’s coming at time where businesses have enough on their plate trying to stay open, trying to stay afloat, trying to pivot, trying to figure out what their new normal is and what their new business model is going to look like and just the added of burden of having to deal with this when it doesn’t have to happen,” Duplisea said.
    The Department of Justice and Public Safety has yet to explain how it plans to police the use of rapid tests and any positive results despite the government making kits widely available to the public in October.
    No one was available for an interview from the department on Tuesday.
    There are 36 sites available to get a free rapid testing kit, according to the Department of Health, with more than 10,000 kits being handed out Monday.

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