WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government has taken on two initiatives to make it easier for healthcare workers and first responders to access COVID-19 tests.

The province announced on Tuesday that it has partnered with the City of Winnipeg to create a new testing site dedicated to first responders. 

“Providing efficient testing for frontline responders is important to protect Winnipeg’s emergency services and ensure staffing levels are not impacted by those who are waiting for test results,” said Jay Shaw, assistant chief of emergency management for the City of Winnipeg, noting the site does not take away any testing capacity from other facilities.

The drive-up testing site is expected to open Friday and will be located in the parking lot of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) training academy at 2546 McPhillips St.

Licensed WFPS paramedics, who are not currently working in the field, will staff the facility, which will be open Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 

According to the province, it expects the facility to handle 40 to 60 tests per day, and offer services to police officers, firefighters, paramedics and emergency communications personnel, with the potential to offer a limited number of slots to healthcare workers.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) is also opening up a limited number of testing appointments, specifically for healthcare workers and first responders, at 2375 Pembina Hwy. and 604 St. Mary’s Road.

Healthcare workers and first responders that need a COVID-19 test can book an appointment at 1-855-268-4318. In order to access their pre-booked appointment at the testing site, all workers will need to do is show their professional identification.

“Health-care workers have been on the front line of the fight against COVID-19, frequently placing themselves at greater risk of exposure to the virus in order to provide treatment and care for patients,” said Health Minister Cameron Friesen in a news release.

“Expanding access to timely testing recognizes their immeasurable importance to our health system fight against COVID-19.”