TORONTO – Looking to mitigate a possible spike in COVID-19 infections after the Christmas break, the Ontario government announced a change to its COVID-19 testing plan November 18.
Students and staff at all publicly-funded schools across the province will each receive five take-home rapid antigen tests before the Christmas holiday for use after gatherings. This is so students who attend family functions can test afterwards to ensure there is no COVID-19 infection passed on at school when returning from the break.
“By expanding testing options over the winter holiday, putting in place additional safety measures, and returning to normal timetabling, we are taking action to ensure schools reopen safely while supporting a more positive learning environment for students,” education minister Stephen Lecce said.
Outside of school testing, the province is expanding COVID-19 testing elsewhere. Soon testing for symptomatic people will be available at select pharmacies across the province. Currently only asymptomatic people can be tested at a pharmacy. Pharmacies will have to opt-in to offer symptomatic testing.
Take-home PCR tests will be available at certain rural and remote regions of the province. Asymptomiatic testing will also be expanded with pop-up testing centres in high-traffic public spaces and at events.
“As we head into the colder months we are enhancing our testing strategy to ensure that every Ontarian, regardless of where they live, can access testing closer to home when they need it and get a test result as quickly as possible,” said Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health.
Also announced with the expanded testing were changes to the second half of the 2021-22 school year.
These changes include reverting to the semester model of four courses per day for secondary school, and releasing the remaining $800 million in COVID-19 support funding for school boards to pay for supplies and other needs for the school year.
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Morrisburg Leader