Health officials focusing on testing only those with symptoms as demand for testing continues to rise

Those without symptoms should delay getting a test according to new guidelines

Ontario health officials have announced a priority will be placed on testing those with symptoms, saying those who are low risk and asymptomatic should avoid assessment centres for now.

This comes as the province announced Thursday an additional 409 cases of COVID-19, along with 289 recoveries and one more death.

Associate chief medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffee says, with an increased demand across the province, testing should be reserved for those with symptoms or who have come into contact with others with a confirmed case. “As the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed, the province must also adapt its approach to testing,” said Dr. Yaffe. “That’s why, in consultation with health experts and Ontario’s Testing Strategy Expert Panel, Dr. David Williams and I have recommended Ontario update testing guidelines to prioritize those who are at the greatest risk, while shifting away from untargeted asymptomatic testing.”

Effective immediately, Ontarians should only seek testing at an assessment centre if COVID-19 symptoms are present, if there’s been an exposure to an active case, or in connection to an outbreak in a residential or work setting.

“In addition, testing will continue to be available on a targeted basis for specific asymptomatic individuals who are at greater risk due to their health condition or employment, at the direction of the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Long-Term Care,” added Dr. Yaffe. “Evolving our testing guidance in this way will support timely access to testing for those who need it.”

While health officials say testing should be reserved for those with symptoms, Premier Doug Ford added that no one who wants a test will be turned away. He added Queen’s Park is committing more funding to increase testing capacities. “We’ve put over $1 billion on the table to help track, trace and isolate cases of COVID-19 through the largest and most robust pandemic testing initiative in the country,” said Ford Thursday. “By ramping up our daily testing capacity to 50,000 tests and closely monitoring our long-term care homes and schools, we can quickly respond to any outbreaks and surges and stop the spread of this deadly virus in its tracks.”

Demand for testing has led to long lines at assessment centres across Ontario, including in Barrie; an at least five-hour wait has been reported at both the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre’s testing centre and at the pop-up location on Huronia Road.