November 24, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, announced the deployment of rapid testing in Ontario to support the province’s response to COVID-19. These tests, which Premier Ford called a “game changer” will provide faster results for vulnerable populations, in regions of high transmission, as well as in rural and remote areas.
Premier Ford and Minister Elliott were joined by Minister of Long-Term Care, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton. Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott responded to questions from media.
Deployment of COVID-19 Rapid Tests
This afternoon, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott announced the deployment of rapid testing to support the province in the identification and management of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Tests received to date include approximately 98,000 ID NOW tests and approximately 1.2 million Panbio rapid antigen tests, which are initially being deployed to support 22 hospitals, 37 long-term care facilities, and 27 retirement homes, as well as other employers.
ID NOW tests are initially being used in hospitals and assessment centres in rural and remote communities, as well as to test people as part of early outbreak investigations in hotspot regions with high rates of COVID-19 community transmission (such as Toronto and Peel).
Panbio rapid antigen tests will support a screening program for long-term care homes and other workplaces including retirement homes, hospitals, and industry partners including Ontario Power Generation, Air Canada, and Magna. These tests will also be used in an eight-week pilot for participating employers in the private, public, and non-profit sectors, prioritizing access for health care settings, essential frontline services, and congregate settings.
Questions from Media
COVID-19 in Schools
When asked whether the government was downplaying the number of COVID-19 cases in schools, given that one in three Toronto public schools currently have an active case of the virus, Premier Ford was adamant that the government is not downplaying the situation. He added that 99.9% of Ontario teachers and 99.2% of Ontario students are currently COVID-free.
In response to questions about whether the government would consider implementing more rigorous testing in schools in order to detect asymptomatic cases in young children, Minister Elliott explained that school-aged children are not currently a significant driver of community spread.
Premier Ford was asked about a tweet written by the President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business this morning, criticizing loopholes for regions in lockdown, which permit large box and department stores to remain open to sell essential items such as groceries and hardware, but do not prohibit these retailers from also selling non-essential items. In response, Premier Ford agreed that this policy is unfair to small business owners, but added that he must listen to the advice of the Public Health Measures Table for public safety. He also re-iterated his opposition to the idea of sectioning off portions of large retailers where non-essential items are sold, calling this idea “unrealistic.”