Ontario to allow symptomatic COVID-19 testing in pharmacies

Ontario to allow symptomatic COVID-19 testing in pharmacies as 481 new cases reported-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
Ontario is moving to allow COVID-19 testing for symptomatic people for pharmacies that opt in. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Ontario pharmacies will soon have the option to offer COVID-19 testing to symptomatic people.

That’s a change from the previous policy, which only allowed for testing in a pharmacy if a person wasn’t showing any symptoms of the virus.

While speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford said he is confident protocols will be in place to protect shoppers. Ford indicated masking policies remain in place and said there will be dedicated lines for testing.

“We have strong protocols in place … we’re going to be very cautious,” Ford said.

Currently, pharmacies can only carry out COVID-19 tests for people without symptoms, who haven’t been in contact with someone with COVID-19, and aren’t part of an outbreak investigation. The testing is largely intended for residents, workers and visitors of long-term care homes, Indigenous individuals, and people who need out-of-country medical services.

A government source says pharmacies — if they opt in — will soon be able to offer PCR swab tests for people with symptoms and high-risk contacts of people with the virus.

Pharmacies taking part in the program will be providing free, in-store diagnostic testing and PCR self-collection kits. They will also serve as drop-off points for at-home tests.

Pharmacies will be expected to have a dedicated space in which to perform the tests, physical distancing, time between tests to allow for cleaning, and put up signage indicating the location provides symptomatic testing.

Southwestern PHU considers new COVID measures

The Southwestern Public Health unit in Ontario is considering adopting new public health measures to mitigate the recent rise in COVID-19 case counts.

The medical officer of health for the counties of Oxford and Elgin said this week that the daily counts of new infections in the area have been higher than those in the rest of the province.

Dr. Joyce Lock said the positivity rate in the daily COVID-19 tests in her unit is continuing to climb every week, reaching about 5.1 per cent recently.

She said her team is looking at the local data to see what additional measures can help in stopping the spread of the virus and reducing the pressure on local hospitals.

St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, which is one of three hospitals in the region, said it’s facing a dire situation, and is now seeing the highest number of patients requiring critical care since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the public health unit in Sudbury reinstated capacity rules and some other measures last week amid a rapid local rise in cases.


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