Ontario Significantly Expanding COVID-19 Testing

Friday April 10th, 2020

Posted at 1:24pm

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The Ontario government is implementing new COVID-19 testing priorities to significantly enhance and expand testing across the province.

Officials say the government is implementing the next phase of its strategy which will proactively test several priority groups in addition to the ongoing testing of the general public at any of the 100 assessment centres across the province.

The government says the priority groups include:

  • Hospital inpatients;
  • Residents of long-term care and retirement homes;
  • Health care workers, caregivers, care providers, paramedics, and first responders, including police and firefighters;
  • Remote, isolated, rural and Indigenous communities;
  • Other congregate living centres, including homeless shelters, prisons and group homes;
  • Specific vulnerable populations, including patients undergoing chemotherapy or hemodialysis and requiring transplants, as well as pregnant persons, newborns and cross-border workers; and
  • Other essential workers, as defined by provincial orders.

“We’re laser-focused on ramping up our testing capacity so we can protect the most vulnerable in our communities and those who protect them, like our frontline health care workers and first responders,” says Premier Doug Ford. “By expanding our testing capacity, we will be able to find cases faster, intervene earlier, reduce the spread, and save lives.”

The Ontario government says they expect to double the number of tests processed each day to 8,000 by April 15th and 14,000 by April 29th, at which point they say overall lab capacity will have been further expanded.

“By significantly increasing the number of tests each day, we will identify cases early, contain them and prevent putting more people at risk,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “Doing so is especially important for priority groups like hospital inpatients, long-term care home residents and our brave frontline health care workers and first responders, all of whom are more vulnerable to being exposed to this virus. Nothing is more important than protecting their health and wellbeing.”

Officials say this testing strategy follows extensive efforts to expand Ontario’s lab testing capacity, which they say helped to quickly eliminate a backlog of approximately 10,000 people within less than two weeks.

To date, the province has conducted over 94,000 tests.

The province has established same-day testing results, which are now accessible to patients through a new user-friendly online portal. Officials say this portal will help ease pressure on public health units and frontline workers, allowing them to focus their efforts on combating COVID-19.

The province is also expanding the capacity of public health units to conduct contact tracing and case management, both of which officials say are critical to stopping the spread of the virus, by enabling the use of volunteers, including retired nurses and medical students.

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