The Ontario government is investing just over $1 billion to expand COVID-19 testing across the province, as well as ramp up case and contact management.
Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott made the announcement at Queen’s Park on Thursday afternoon, saying the hefty investment will mean “more testing locations and case and contact management resources to trace and isolate cases” of the novel coronavirus.
“Our government has established a strong foundation for testing and case and contact management with lab networks capable of processing up to 40,000 daily tests,” Elliott said. “With this investment, we will significantly expand on that capacity, improving access to testing, reducing testing wait times and ensuring Ontarians get the results quickly.”
According to Elliott, the province is working with Ontario Health, local public health units, hospital and pharmacies to expand testing locations “based upon local needs.”
“This will include more testing in new locations, such as your doctor’s office and at-home for certain home and community care clients,” she said.
The government also announced a $30 million investment on Thursday to “prevent and manage outbreaks in priority sectors.”
Elliott said this investment will support long-term care homes, schools and hospital “effectively prevent, track and contain outbreaks of COVID-19.”
As part of the government’s second wave plan, officials said 500 more staff have been hired this month for contacting tracing and case management and the province is working to hire another 500.
“We see the numbers spiking up, it’s extremely concerning and we have to act,” Ford said on Thursday. “We always knew that a second wave was coming and we’ve been preparing for months.”
On Wednesday, the province announced asymptomatic individuals can get tested at up to 60 pharmacies across Ontario as of Friday by appointment only.
Following that announcement, the CEO of Ontario Health, Matt Anderson, said the province is now changing their guidelines on who should be visiting COVID-19 assessment centres.
Speaking on Thursday morning, Anderson said only those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, vulnerable populations and contact of known cases should attend testing centres.
Anderson’s message comes after the province’s has seen hours-long lines at many assessment centres in recent days.
Recently, more than 30,000 tests have been conducted in Ontario daily.