Fully vaccinated people won't need COVID tests to enter Ontario long-term care homes

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Ontario is lifting COVID-19 testing requirements for fully vaccinated visitors, caregivers and staff at long-term care homes, provided they aren't showing any symptoms.

The move announced on Wednesday will take effect on Friday, the same day the province will lift public heath restrictions on other sectors as it moves to the third phase of its reopening plan.

"These changes are made possible because of the incredible efforts of millions of Ontarians who rolled up their sleeves and got vaccinated," Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips said in a statement.

Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated people will still need to be tested for COVID-19 before entering the homes.

People will need to show their receipt of vaccination with their second dose administered at least 14 days ago.

Also on Friday, the province is set to lift limits on visitors to a long-term care home and permit buffet dining, resident absences, off-site excursions and activities like singing and dancing.

Other changes have taken effect this month in the highly vaccinated care homes in Ontario that suffered widespread virus outbreaks and deaths during the first year of the pandemic.

Indoor visits with up to two general visitors and two caregivers were permitted starting July 7 and visits of 10 people were allowed outdoors.

Personal care services like haircuts have also been allowed to resume and a limit on designated caregivers has been lifted.

The province has also made it mandatory that staff in long-term care disclose their vaccination status against the virus. Those who don't take the vaccine for non-medical reasons must undergo mandatory education about the importance of vaccines.

The government reported that as of Monday, 93 per cent of long-term care staff had at least one COVID-19 dose and 87 per cent were fully vaccinated.

Since the pandemic began, 3,788 long-term care residents and 13 staff have died from COVID-19, according to provincial figures, and thousands more have been infected.

Vaccinations that began in December have largely reversed the pattern of widespread outbreaks in long-term care but the province reported three homes with active COVID-19 outbreaks as of Wednesday.

Ontario reported 153 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and seven deaths from the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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