Ontario now considering lifting COVID-19 restrictions on a regional basis

Nearly 80% of all COVID-19 cases in Ontario are in the Toronto-area

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’s now considering lifting COVID-19 restrictions on a regional basis.

The Premier has previously said he wouldn’t consider a regional reopening but his change in tune comes “based off the advice of health officials.”

“This depends on the concentration and spread, plans are constantly adjusted based on the data,” Ford said on Friday during his daily news briefing.

“I’m now comfortable with asking our officials to look at a regional approach to reopening the economy…everything is on the table, it’s an option that we are looking at.”

Ford says the province’s expanded testing guidelines will help them better understand trends and hot spots.

The CBC is reporting that around 80% of all COVID-19 cases in Ontario are in the Toronto area

The province announced its new testing strategy Friday morning.

Ford says anyone who feels they need a test will be able to get a test. “More proactive testing will give employers and their employees confidence as they return to work.”

Health Minister Christine Elliott says mobile testing teams will be rapidly deployed to hot spot areas.

In addition to the mobile tests, Elliott says the province has 129 assessment centres open to everyone across the province.

Related: Long-term care inspectors in OPSEU refused to enter homes during COVID-19 peak

Ontario completed 18,500 COVID-19 tests yesterday. Ontario currently has the capacity to conduct 20,000 tests per day.

Officials confirmed 344 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, down from the 383 cases reported yesterday. The provincial total of confirmed cases now stands at 27,210 with 77.1 per cent considered resolved.

Forty-one more people have died, bringing the total death count to 2,230, 1,412 were in long-term care.

Three branches of new testing strategy

  1. Assessment Centre Testing: expanding who gets tested to now include asymptomatic individuals concerned about exposure and continued routine symptomatic testing at assessment centres.
  2. Targeted Campaigns: detecting and containing cases by expanding asymptomatic surveillance for vulnerable populations, including in long-term care homes and other shared living spaces like shelters and group homes, as well as targeted testing of workplaces in priority sectors which work with priority populations and where it may be difficult to physically distance.
  3. Outbreak Management: testing to ensure rapid and agile response capacity for outbreak management, including in specific neighbourhoods and regions or at hospitals, institutions and workplaces.

Ontario is also expanding proactive surveillance to actively monitor any spread among vulnerable populations in hospitals, long-term care homes, group homes, shelters, emergency child care centres, correctional facilities and other shared living spaces.

The expansion includes the testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic residents and frontline staff in long-term care and retirement homes, as well as those working with priority populations, including first responders, essential workers and other workplaces as the economy gradually reopens.