September 23, 2020
Today, Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, announced that COVID-19 testing in Ontario will be expanded to pharmacies in the province beginning September 25th. Today’s announcement is part of the province’s fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19, which was announced yesterday.
Also beginning this week, three assessment centres in the province will begin offering saliva testing, as an alternative to the traditional nasopharyngeal swab.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott responded to questions from media regarding Ontario’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier today, the government also announced a recruitment campaign to increase its team of frontline health and safety inspectors, in order to ensure that Ontario workplaces are doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Keeping Ontarians Safe Pillar #2 – COVID-19 Testing in Pharmacies
In order to make COVID-19 tests more accessible in anticipation of a second wave, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott announced that Ontario will make COVID-19 testing available in pharmacies, beginning this Friday, September 25th.
Up to 60 pharmacies will initially offer COVID-19 testing, with further locations announced in the coming weeks. Tests conducted in pharmacies will be by appointment only, and will only be offered for individuals who have no COVID-19 symptoms. Pre-screening will also be conducted to ensure that no one displaying symptoms of COVID-19 is permitted to enter a pharmacy for testing.
By offering testing in pharmacies, Ontario hopes to take some of the current level of strain of the province’s 150 assessment centres, many of which are facing hours-long lineups.
Today’s announcement is the second pillar of Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19. Minister Elliott added that more information on the province’s testing strategy, and on preventing and managing outbreaks, will be announced tomorrow.
Saliva Testing at Assessment Centres
In tandem with efforts to expand the number of sites offering COVID-19 testing, Premier Ford said that the province is also working to expand available testing options.
This week, three assessment centres, including Women’s College, Mount Sinai, and University Health Network—Toronto Western Hospital, will begin offering saliva testing as an alternative to the nasopharyngeal swab. Saliva testing is a less invasive method of testing for COVID-19, which produces quicker results.
Questions from Media – Response to COVID-19
When asked about school-related cases of COVID-19, Premier Ford reassured Ontarians that the system in place is working, and that confirmed cases and their respective cohorts are being isolated. He reiterated that he will not hesitate to close schools again if community spread in the province continues to increase.
Recruitment of Provincial Health and Safety Inspectors
Earlier today, the government announced the launch of a recruitment campaign to increase its team of frontline health and safety inspectors by 98 (an increase of 24 per cent). This recruitment effort will help ensure that Ontario workplaces are compliant with COVID-19 guidelines, in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
New inspectors will have the broad powers to:
- Inspect any workplace and ensure they have COVID protections in place;
- Investigate any potentially hazardous situation, critical injury, fatality and work refusal;
- Order compliance with the legislation;
- Stop unsafe work from being performed; and
- Recommend and initiate prosecutions.