COVID-19 tests are on their way to select Waterloo Region, Brantford, and surrounding area pharmacies this week, and strict rules on who can get these tests will also be coming with them.

Starting Tuesday, the following Shoppers Drug Mart locations will be offering asymptomatic COVID-19 testing:

  • 235 Ira Needles Boulevard, Kitchener
  • 550 King Street North, Waterloo
  • 1500 King Street East, Cambridge
  • 511 Huron Street, Stratford

The decision to allow pharmacies to provide tests comes from the province in an attempt to stop overcrowding at testing centres.

“Additional testing capacity at pharmacies for certain asymptomatic individuals will help the assessment centres focus on those most at risk for COVID-19 as identified by the updated provincial guidance," said Anne Kelly, communications manager for St. Mary's General Hospital.

Waterloo resident Nick Pauloff says the process of finding out his five-year-old daughter was COVID-19-free took days.

“I would have loved to have gone to a pharmacy,” he said. “She was asymptomatic so it would have made sense to go there.”

Residents looking for a test at a pharmacy are required to have no symptoms, be screened over the phone in advance before booking an appointment, and be either a contact of a confirmed positive case, live or work in an at-risk setting, will be visiting a long-term care home, a worker or resident of an outbreak site, or eligible for testing as part of a targeted initiative.

“They should open the testing up more, there should be more testing, that’s the only way we’re going to get the virus under control,” one Waterloo Region resident tells CTV News. “Why are we going to tell some people not to go but some people should?”

Waterloo resident Marie Debrun was on her way to a pharmacy and says she is already extra cautious in public spaces.

She also admits she’d be more comfortable getting tested at an assessment centre.

“[I’d rather] have a nurse or doctor do the swab as oppose to a pharmacist,” said Debrun.

Kelly Grindrod, Assoc. Professor for the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy, says they will be working hard to ensure the safest practices.

“We have a lot of people with chronic illness who go into pharmacies to get their medication,” she said. “Pharmacies should already be safe spaces.”

Grindold adds that it will be busy and chaotic for pharmacists to prepare for testing since there wasn’t a great enough notice.