Stefan Ottenbrite, CEO of Muskoka 411 news, took to Twitter on December 21 to respond to allegations that he is profiteering off of the pandemic by selling Rapid Antigen Tests.
A post on reddit displayed an apparent tweet from Ottenbrite with a photo of boxes of the tests, and the caption “Let me know if you need more”. In a separate screenshot shared on reddit of an undated email allegedly from the company’s operations manager, “cases of 25” were available for $400, tax included.
“I am being wrongfully accused of re-selling free #COVID rapid test kits. Our local PPE supplier has made them available and we are passing them along at the same price as we get them from our supplier. After I pick them up, gas, travel, I actually lose money,” Ottenbrite said in a statement on Twitter.
Ottenbrite also says he has an invoice for the tests, although none was uploaded.
“My goal for this is simply to help people get PPE right away and that is what we have been doing from day one. It’s not about the money. I appreciate those who have been kind and grateful for what we have done to keep people safe and businesses open.”
As cases rise in the province, including the new Omicron variant, rapid tests are in high demand. Eleven million cases were distributed to students via schools for use through the holiday break. As of Dec. 14, the province had distributed more than 45 million rapid tests to workplaces, hospitals, home and community care settings, long-term care homes, and schools and childcare centres across Ontario.
Although supplies are running low, chambers of commerce in Muskoka have been giving out the tests for free to local businesses.
The province also made tests available for free to individuals last Friday via more than 100 LCBO locations, mostly in larger centres. They had all been distributed within a day. Soon after some tests began appearing for resale on platforms like Kijiji.
Minister of Government and Consumer Services Ross Romano said on Tuesday that the province would crack down on the practice.
“It’s deplorable to see bad actors reselling rapid test kits provided free of charge by the provincial government,” he wrote on Twitter. “We’re working to identify, track down, & fine anyone who takes advantage of Ontarians by price gouging! File a complaint at 1-800-889-9768 or [online at https://www.ontario.ca/page/report-price-gouging-related-coronavirus-covid-19.]”
The value in rapid tests is their speed: they yield results within about 20 minutes and the person can isolate immediately if they are positive while they wait for confirmation via a PCR test.
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