Today Premier Ford was joined by Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, to announce the next phase of Ontario’s Covid-19 testing plan.
COVID-19 testing expanded across Ontario
The Premier and his Health Minister released the next phase of Ontario’s testing plan which will allow for more expanded and proactive testing of the wider population across Ontario. You can read full plan here: Protecting Ontarians Through Enhanced Testing.
“Ontario now has the most open and robust testing criteria in the entire country. In fact, anyone who feels they need a test will be able to get a test,” said Premier Ford. “We can’t manage what we can’t measure, and our newly expanded testing strategy is our best defense against stopping the spread of COVID-19 as we gradually and safely reopen the province.”
Expanding proactive surveillance testing
Ontario is expanding proactive surveillance testing to detect outbreaks and more actively monitor any spread among vulnerable populations in hospitals, long-term care homes, group homes, shelters, emergency childcare centers, correctional facilities and other shared living spaces. This will include testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic residents and frontline staff in long-term care and retirement homes, as well as those working with priority populations, including first responders, essential workers and other workplaces as the economy gradually reopens.
Rural, Indigenous, and private-sector workplace testing:
The Premier also announced that moving forward his government will work with private-sector employers to develop the appropriate models for each sector and workplace. And further proactive surveillance testing will be conducted in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities.
Mobile testing teams
The government is also working on running mobile testing teams which will be rapidly deployed across Ontario to help deal with any potential outbreaks.
“There is an army of 2000 contact tracing, following up with people every day and we need to keep increasing that capacity,” emphasized Ford. “Additional testing will also help us understand the trends, and how the virus is spreading.”
Ford also noted that people will no longer need a referral to go to any of the more than 130 assessment centers across Ontario.
Renewed strategy to support public health units
The Premier and Minister also mentioned they will soon release a renewed strategy to support public health units with case management and contact tracing, including launching a new exposure notification app that will alert Ontarians when they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and recommend appropriate actions, such as monitoring for symptoms, self-isolation and/or appropriate next steps on getting tested.
Regional approach to staged re-opening:
Ford announced that he is now comfortable asking public health officials to look at a regional approach to staged re-opening. This would mean that different rules may apply to different regions in Ontario and depending on case numbers and the severity of cases, hardest hit areas may be last to reopen. 65% of all cases are currently clustered in the GTA with 82% of all COVID-19 cases coming from Toronto, Peel and York Region.
He ended his remarks by encouraging Ontarians that “we will get through this. We will rebuild what we have lost with a vengeance. We will be the economic engine that gets Canada moving again, and we will do it together.”