Rapid COVID-19 Testing Deployment And Non-Essential Business Sectors

Last Updated: March 18, 2021

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This Briefing Note was completed by the Research, Analysis, and Evaluation Branch (Ministry of Health) based on information provided by members of the COVID-19 Evidence Synthesis Network. Please refer to the Methods section for further information.


This note summarizes the available literature on the use of rapid screening to support the re-opening of non-essential business sectors across jurisdictions, and the outcomes of these testing strategies.

*The full version of the Briefing Note including the Appendix can be accessed in the PDF file at the top of the page*

Key Findings

COVID-19 Testing in Non-Essential Businesses

Mass COVID-19 Testing

Guidance and Recommendations


Analysis for Ontario

Supporting Evidence

This section below summarizes findings from identified literature on testing deployment in non-essential business sectors.

Scientific Evidence

Economic Benefits of COVID-19 Testing

  • Findings from a US-based modelling study on a nationwide COVID-19 screening testing program in the presence of a vaccine rollout suggest that a well-designed federally-funded screening testing program, coupled with self-isolation of those who test positive, would pay for itself in terms of increased gross domestic product. The reduction in the prevalence of the virus is predicted to lead to an increase in GDP between CAD $10 and $57 billion dollars.

International Scan

COVID-19 Testing in Non-Essential Businesses

  • Between January and March, 2021, rapid COVID-19 testing programs were launched in two jurisdictions: Scotland (food production), and Singapore (trucking industry).
    • No outcomes of these programs have been identified.

Mass COVID-19 Testing

  • Mass COVID-19 testing is currently being done in the City of Liverpool (UK), Germany, Iceland, Slovakia and China. Table 3 in the Appendix provides available details on the target populations and contexts, testing methods, and any reported information on the implementation and the impact of mass testing.

Guidance and Recommendations

  • The CDC’s guidance on businesses and employers responding to COVID-19 suggests repeated testing over time, also referred to as serial testing, may be more likely to detect infection among workers with exposures than testing done at a single point in time.

Ontario Scan

  • Between January and March, 2021, two identified rapid COVID-19 testing programs in Ontario were launched: travel (Toronto, ON), and construction industries.
    • Ontario’s pilot program at Pearson International Airport is evaluating the use of the LuminUltra rapid PCR test; and the response biomedical rapid antigen test.
    • No outcomes of these programs have been identified.


The COVID-19 Evidence Synthesis Network is comprised of groups specializing in evidence synthesis and knowledge translation. The group has committed to provide their expertise to provide high-quality, relevant, and timely synthesized research evidence about COVID-19 to inform decision makers as the pandemic continues. The following member of the Network provided evidence that was used to develop this Evidence Synthesis Briefing Note:

  • McMaster Health Forum; and
  • Ontario Health.