Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that an announcement on the feasibility of asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in pharmacies may come “over the next day or two” as residents report long wait times at assessment centres.
The premier said that the plan, once finalized, would be to allow for asymptomatic testing at pharmacies in order to reduce the burden on facilities where severely ill people may need to be assessed or treated.
“I am not going to say that 100 per cent but I can tell you we are all over it,” he said. “Just stay tuned over the next day or two and we will have an announcement. I just don’t want to announce anything until all the ducks are in a row.”
The premier first mentioned the possibility of partnering with pharmacies for testing in early June, but not much else had been said since.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the province has steadily increased over the last week, with 251 new infections reported on Tuesday following a 14-week high on Monday.
The higher case count has led to long lines at assessment centres as more and more people look to confirm if they have the disease.
“I have a bad cold, I’m a personal trainer and I have a yoga studio,” one resident in line at an assessment centre in Toronto said. “I cannot put any of my clients at risk and I need to know if I have it or not.”
Dr. Andrew Healey, Chief of Emergency at William Osler Health System, told CTV News Toronto they will be opening up a second facility at their Peel Memorial Centre in Brampton to help conduct COVID-19 tests in the community.
“The fact that there is any delay in testing is a concern to us, but we are working quite hard to correct that and to continue to offer as much testing as we can,” he said.
Healey also urged those who are asymptomatic, haven’t been exposed to COVID-19 through a close contact and who may be getting a test to participate in an activity–to stop doing so.
“We would encourage you to participate in that activity safety using social distancing, good hand hygiene and wearing a mask and, if you can, avoid being tested if you are asymptomatic and haven’t had a contact.”
“That will increase the capacity of the tests for those who are symptomatic or connected to the school system.”
Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government is looking into ways to increase capacity at both testing centres and laboratories.
“I would say that the good news here is that people are going to be tested,” she told reporters in Guelph, Ont. “We’ve asked people to do that if they have concerns, if they have some symptoms, if they feel that they’ve been in touch with somebody with COVID-19, we want them to be tested.”
“But they also deserve to be tested in a timely manner and we are aware that there are some significant lineups in many different parts of Ontario.”
Elliott added that that the long lines may be due to concern as children return to school and anxiety over a potential second wave of the disease.
“We did anticipate an increase in the lineups, but perhaps not to this extent.”