TORONTO — Ontario pharmacies will soon be able to start offering COVID-19 tests for symptomatic people, something the premier said he's confident can be done safely.
Currently, pharmacies can only do COVID-19 tests for people without symptoms, who haven't been in contact with someone with COVID-19, and aren't part of an outbreak investigation.
The testing is largely intended for residents, workers and visitors of long-term care homes, Indigenous individuals, and people who need out-of-country medical services.
A senior government source, who isn't authorized to speak publicly ahead of an upcoming announcement, said pharmacies – if they opt in – will soon be able to offer PCR swab tests for people with symptoms and for high-risk contacts of people with COVID-19.
The pharmacies will also be able to serve as drop-off points for at-home tests, if they want to participate in the program.
Premier Doug Ford was asked Tuesday how general pharmacy customers will be protected. He noted that stores still require masking.
"They're going to have dedicated lines going into the pharmacy, but we're gonna throw everything we can at it," he said.
"I think the pharmacies were one of the saviors when it came to making sure that we got people vaccinated. They played such a major, major part in it, the independent pharmacies and the other big-brand pharmacies. So I have confidence they'll do a fine job."
Pharmacies will be expected to have a dedicated space in which to perform the tests, physical distancing, time between tests to allow for cleaning, and put up signage indicating the location provides symptomatic testing, the source said.
Nearly 19,000 tests were processed in Ontario in the previous day, and 90 per cent of test results are available within one day.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2021.
The Canadian Press