Ontario has completed over four million COVID-19 tests since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to lead the country in both the number of tests completed and daily testing capacity.
To ensure the province’s health care system is prepared for the second wave of COVID-19, the government will add more testing locations to improve access and reduce wait times, as well as increase processing capacity within the provincial laboratory network.
“It’s clear from today’s milestone that we have the most robust, most comprehensive testing strategy in the entire country, and in fact, we have completed more tests than all the other provinces combined,” Premier Doug Ford said. “Having this critical capacity will ensure we are able to track, trace, and isolate the deadly invisible enemy we face through the second wave. Our tremendous progress is due to the tireless efforts of our heroic lab technicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other frontline staff.”
In partnership with Ontario Health, Public Health Ontario, local public health units, hospital and community laboratories, the government has developed a province-wide integrated laboratory system. At the start of the outbreak, Ontario was conducting 4,000 tests per day. The province is now well on its way to building the capacity to process 50,000 daily tests by mid-October and 68,000 daily tests by mid-November to ensure readiness to effectively respond to any surges in cases or outbreaks.
“Reaching four million tests in Ontario demonstrates clearly that we are a national leader in testing capacity, however there is much more work to be done,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said. “That’s why, as part of our COVID-19 fall preparedness plan, our government is investing $1.07 billion to dramatically expand our testing capacity, launch more testing locations and add more case and contact management resources to trace and isolate new cases. We want to ensure that everyone who needs a test can get one quickly.”
Expanding the province’s testing capacity has been imperative to tackling the second wave of COVID-19. In an effort to expand this access, the province has expanded testing sites to participating pharmacies. Currently, 77 pharmacies across the province are collecting COVID-19 samples with over 5,800 samples collected since September 25, 2020. Ontarians who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 and are eligible for testing within provincial testing guidance may visit a select pharmacy by appointment for a free test, with or without a valid Ontario Health Card. Additional pharmacies will be offering testing in the coming weeks.
As the weather begins to get cooler, assessment centres have shifted to online booking to provide certainty and convenience for those who need a test. This will complement telephone booking that remains available where used.