ONTARIO – The province of Ontario announced on Thursday, Nov. 18 that it would be increasing access to testing, including by sending rapid antigen screening tests home with all public school students ahead of the winter break.
“Ontario’s plan for safer schools has delivered improved ventilation, supported high vaccination rates for youth, and restored extra-curricular activities and sports – all critical to student mental and physical health,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “By expanding testing options over the winter holiday, putting in place additional safety measures, and returning to normal timetabling, we are taking action to ensure schools reopen safely while supporting a more positive learning environment for students.”
The province intends to send each student home with five tests for use over the winter break and as students prepare to return to the classroom in January. This program will also be available to First Nations communities.
“While vaccination remains the best way to protect against COVID-19, testing remains a key part of our pandemic response by detecting cases earlier and providing an additional layer of safety,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “As we head into the colder months we are enhancing our testing strategy to ensure that every Ontarian, regardless of where they live, can access testing closer to home when they need it and get a test result as quickly as possible.”
The province will also make available a program that pharmacies can opt-in to allowing them to administer publicly funded COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
“Getting vaccinated, adhering to public health measures and maintaining consistent and timely access to testing will be key to responding to potential outbreaks or surges,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “As we prepare to head inside over the winter months, and while we have paused the next step of our reopening plan out of an abundance of caution, enhancing our testing strategy is critical to protect our hospital capacity, health care resources, and the progress we have made together so far in learning to live with and manage COVID-19 in the long term.”
The province will also be expanding testing for asymptomatic individuals at testing sites that will be established across the province. The province states that the location of these sites will be announced in the coming weeks.