Ontario unveiled its winter COVID-19 test strategy on Thursday, which includes a “holiday lightning bomb” as well as providing students with take-home rapid antigen tests during the school break.
The province said it is looking to expand its test plan during winter and the colder weather is coming and is pushing people to spend more time indoors and increase close contact.
The winter strategy is a three-shrimp response – holiday mobile testing, access to low-barrier testing options for elementary and high school students, and expanded access to pharmacy testing.
Ontario to allow people with COVID-19 symptoms to be tested at Shoppers Drug Mart, other pharmacies
From mid-December to early January, the province will launch a mobile phone test with “pop-up testing for asymptomatic people in a higher traffic public setting.” Places for these mobile units will be released in the coming weeks but will most likely be close to public spaces such as retail stores and holiday markets.
Locations will also be selected based on where risk is higher including areas with low vaccine numbers and / or a higher transmission number.
The province will also distribute 11 million rapid antigen tests to students in publicly funded schools between late November and mid-December ahead of the winter break. The acquisition of the tests will cost the government $ 50 million.
Each student will receive five tests and should test themselves every three to four days during the break (every Monday and Thursday from December 23). Participation in this endeavor is voluntary.
This program was also offered to First Nations schools.
In late October, Ontario said all students in Toronto public schools will have access to portable PCR kits, an option that will be available to more students across the province starting in mid-November.
COVID-19: Toronto public schools gain access to home PCR tests by weekend
This is done to “increase access to low barrier test options for school children,” the province said. Private and Indian Nations schools may also participate.
The PCR kits are available for students who are symptomatic or asymptomatic but have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case.
The number of pharmacies offering trials will increase starting November 18 and will go from 211 to 1,300 within a few weeks. This will include tests offered to symptomatic individuals who were criticized when it was announced on Tuesday.
Health Minister Christine Elliott defended the decision on Wednesday, saying the pharmacies will take standard infection prevention and control measures – including mask-wearing, physical distance and having a dedicated space to perform the tests.
Ontario is advocating a plan to have pharmacies safely test people with COVID-19 symptoms
Other new test options that will be offered by pharmacies include laboratory-based PCR tests, self-collecting laboratory PCR tools, and rapid molecular (diagnostic) testing in stores. However, not all participating stores will offer all of the above. Ontarians can see places here.
–With files from The Canadian Press
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