Ontario has announced the next steps in the testing process. The plan will rolled out in three phases, and was announced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and Health Minister Christine Elliott at their daily press conference.
“Ontario now has the most open and robust testing criteria in the entire country,” Premier Doug Ford said. The new plan entitled Protecting Ontarians Through Enhanced Testing rolls out as follows:
- Assessment Centre Testing: expanding who gets tested to now include asymptomatic individuals concerned about exposure and continued routine symptomatic testing at assessment centres.
- Targeted Campaigns: detecting and containing cases by expanding asymptomatic surveillance for vulnerable populations, including in long-term care homes and other shared living spaces like shelters and group homes, as well as targeted testing of workplaces in priority sectors which work with priority populations and where it may be difficult to physically distance.
- Outbreak Management: testing to ensure rapid and agile response capacity for outbreak management, including in specific neighbourhoods and regions or at hospitals, institutions and workplaces.
Residents will no longer need a referral to enter a testing centre. There are five in Halton:
- Milton: 725 Bronte St. Milton Ontario. Hours are 9am to 5pm Monday-Sunday. Phone number: 905-203-7963. An appointment is preferred.
- Oakville: Trafalgar Memorial Hospital: 3001 Hospital Gate. Hours are: 9am-5pm Monday-Sunday. Phone number: 905-203-7963. An appointment is preferred.
- Georgetown: Georgetown Hospital: 1 Princess Anne Drive, Georgetown. Hours are: 9am-5pm Monday-Sunday. Phone number is: 905-203-7963. An appointment is preferred
- Burlington: Joseph Brant Hospital: 1245 Lakeshore Blvd. Hours: Monday-Sunday 11am-7pm. Phone number is: 905-632-3737 ext. 6550 No appointment needed
- Listowel: Listowel Wingham Hospitals Alliance: 285 Sarah Avenue North- Hours: Tuesday-Thursday: 10am-2pm. Phone number: 519-291-4200. An appointment is preferred.
“I just want to caution people that although your test may be negative, you must continue to practise physical distancing, and wear a face covering where physical distancing is a challenge, and wash your hands regularly,” Elliott said. Ontario recorded 344 new cases overnight bringing the totally to 27,210 since January 15.
“We can’t manage what we can’t measure, and our newly expanded testing strategy is our best defence against stopping the spread of COVID-19 as we gradually and safely reopen the province,” Ford said. The province expects private-sector workplace testing will leverage private and public resources.
Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Andrea Horwath is asking for better timelines on when to expect Ontario’s economy to reopen. “We need firm timelines with dates and benchmarks for testing workers, congregate settings and vulnerable communities,” Horwath said. The NDP is advocating for systemic testing for essential workers, and those returning to work.
Ford is also considering reopening the province on a regional basis. “Now that our testing is getting to where we need it, I am now comfortable with asking our officials to look at a regional approach for a staged opening,” Ford said. 18,525 tests were completed yesterday. The province’s capacity is approximately 20,000.