September 24, 2020
Today, Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, announced an investment of $1.07 billion to expand COVID-19 testing, and case and contact management in the province, as well as additional funding to prevent and manage outbreaks in priority sectors. Today’s announcement is part of the province’s fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19, which the government is rolling out this week.
The government also issued a statement today, updating testing guidelines to prioritize those who are at greatest risk, while shifting away from untargeted asymptomatic testing.
Keeping Ontarians Safe Pillar #3 – Expanding Testing and Case and Contact Management
The province is investing $1.07 billion to enhance and expand efforts to test, trace and isolate new cases of COVID-19.
Building on existing efforts, Ontario will continue to improve testing and contact tracing by:
- Introducing more testing locations based on local needs and in order to reduce wait times. This will include adding more testing locations such as primary care offices, at-home testing for certain home and community care clients, and in-pharmacy testing beginning on Friday, September 25th.
- Increasing testing options by expanding the methods for COVID-19 testing. Less invasive testing methods, including saliva testing, will now be used in addition to nasopharyngeal swabs. Saliva testing will be available at three hospitals starting this week, and at more assessment centres in the coming weeks. The government is also urging Health Canada to expedite the approval of rapid testing methods currently being used in other jurisdictions.
- Hiring additional case and contact managers, including 500 employees from Statistics Canada and an additional 500 contact tracers.
- Conducting health behaviour surveillance to track adherence to public health measures and understand how to better communicate the importance of public health measures to the public.
Indicators of success include a faster turnaround time for testing, maintaining a test positivity rate under three per cent, continuing to reach 90 per cent of cases within 24 hours, and public compliance with public health measures.
Updated Testing Guidelines
To support Ontario’s expanded approach to testing and contact tracing, the government also announced new testing guidance to ensure that testing is more strategic, by prioritizing those at greatest risk of contracting COVID-19 while shifting away from untargeted, asymptomatic testing.
Under the updated guidance, testing will be available to those who are symptomatic, have had close contact with a confirmed case, or are part of an outbreak investigation. Testing will also continue to be available on a targeted basis for specific asymptomatic individuals who are at greater risk due to their health condition or employment.
The new testing guidance is effective immediately.
Keeping Ontarians Safe Pillar #4 – Quickly Identify, Manage and Prevent Outbreaks
The government also announced an investment of $30 million this afternoon to prevent and manage outbreaks in priority sectors, including long-term care homes, retirement homes and schools.
Building on efforts to date, Ontario will continue to improve outbreak management through:
- The development and distribution of an outbreak guidance toolkit by Emergency Management Ontario. This toolkit will support each ministry’s outbreak management planning, ensuring strong sector responses.
- Stress-testing outbreak response protocols and structures through virtual simulation.
The above measures are in addition to $510 million which has been provided through the Social Services Relief Fund to municipal Service Managers and Indigenous Program Administrators to protect vulnerable populations.