The Ontario government is cutting the isolation period from 10 to five days for fully vaccinated people including children, while also limiting publicly-funded PCR tests. Individuals who are not vaccinated, partially vaccinated or immunocompromised will be required to isolate for 10 days.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, says people with the virus are most infectious two days before and three days after symptoms develop, and the new testing guidelines will reflect that.
“Ontario’s cautious approach and high vaccination rates have helped keep hospital and intensive care unit capacity stable to date. Focusing our testing and case and contact management on high-risk settings will help limit transmission, maintain critical workforces, and ensure timely access to PCR testing where it is needed the most. Anyone who is sick should protect their community by staying home,” according to Moore.
The new guidance, which begins on Friday, also excludes most symptomatic adults from seeking free PCR COVID-19 testing unless they belong to one of a few identified groups including those seeking care in a hospital emergency room, the homeless, those who live in or work in congregate care, contacts identified in an outbreak setting or Indigenous populations.
Moore urged members of the public who are experiencing mild symptoms not to seek testing.
“Focusing our testing and case and contact management on high-risk settings will help limit transmission, maintain critical workforces, and ensure timely access to PCR testing where it is needed the most. Anyone who is sick should protect their community by staying home,” said Moore at Thursday’s media briefing.
He added that most people with a positive result from a rapid antigen test will no longer be required to get a confirmatory PCR test.
Scoring a timely PCR test has been virtually impossible, with many testing locations overwhelmed and now offering appointments well into January.
In a statement, NDP leader Andrea Horwath called on the premier to immediately reverse his decision to restrict testing.
“People are reeling from Ford’s decision to deny free COVID PCR tests to all but high-risk symptomatic people. We need to ramp up to make testing more available, not cut people off,” said Horwath.
“Folks are worried that we’ll no longer know how wide-spread COVID is in our communities, we’ll be unable to put out hotspots or prevent outbreaks, and we’ll be less safe when we see loved ones or go to work. Meanwhile, telling people to simply stay home instead of getting a test is shockingly cruel when Ford won’t give people adequate paid sick days.”
On Thursday, the province logged a record 13,807 new COVID-19 cases. There were 965 people in hospital with the virus and of those, 200 were in intensive care.
In Simcoe Muskoka, the health unit on Thursday reported 637 new infections, a record one-day count.
Public Health Ontario says the case count is an underestimate due to the backlog of tests