One day before online booking for COVID-19 tests is set to be up-and-running across Ontario, people were still turning up at at least one Ottawa assessment centre for walk-in tests — and then being turned away.
Last week, the province announced it would be transitioning to an online booking system Tuesday, with walk-ins discontinued Saturday so assessment centres could "reset, deep clean and ensure preparedness" before switching over.
Despite that pronouncement, the Brewer Arena test site was still taking walk-ins Sunday.
That caused confusion among both patients and doctors over whether the city's test sites would also be open Monday, with one Ottawa physician saying people seeking tests simply "don't know what to do."
It wasn't until Sunday evening that the Ottawa COVID-19 Testing Taskforce — a new group which represents various health care voices across the region — announced the main Brewer Arena site would be closed Monday.
In its email, the task force said only the Brewer Arena site operated by CHEO, the children's hospital serving eastern Ontario, and the Coventry Road drive-thru site would be open Monday for people with appointments.
Dozens of adults still showed up at the Brewer site Monday morning, unaware of the closure. Some waited at least an hour before finding out from employees at the centre.
"I don't know what to do," said Cedric Ky, who is supposed to fly to Ghana on Friday to see his father.
Instead of getting a test, Ky was turned away.
"Now I have to figure out how I'm going to get my test done," he said.
Josephine Ngahimo showed up at the assessment centre at 7 a.m. with camping chairs in hand to help get her parents tested, as they'd been in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.
They waited an hour in the rain before being told the site was closed.
"It's just an inconvenience, [a] disappointment, but I cannot do much about it," she said.
Ngahimo said she knew the province was moving to an online booking system Tuesday, but said she didn't know the Brewer site wasn't taking walk-ins Monday.
Christian Cantin also tried and failed to get a test Monday.
He said he's already taken four days off work after his roommate started experiencing symptoms, and any more time off would be problematic.
"I was kind of disappointed that I couldn't get tested today," he said. "Because I wanted to get things on the move."
The province has also said that by giving some assessment centres a short break, Ontario's labs would be able to work through the roughly 68,000-strong backlog of unprocessed COVID-19 tests.
Health Minister Christine Elliott told a news conference Monday that she imagined the Brewer site had stayed open on the weekend because there were people who "needed to be tested immediately."
"You have a rule, but if there's someone there that has significant symptoms and needs to be tested, [then] they made the accommodation to do that," said Elliott.
"[That's] in the interests of everyone's health and safety."