Ontario Unveils Winter COVID Testing Strategy, To Include ‘Christmas Blitz’ | The Canadian News

Ontario unveiled its winter COVID-19 testing strategy Thursday, which includes a “holiday blitz,” in addition to providing students with rapid antigen tests to take home during school holidays.

The province said it is looking to expand its testing plan as winter and colder weather rolls in and pushes people to spend more time indoors and increase close contact.

The winter strategy is a three-shrimp response: a barrage of mobile testing during the holidays, access to low-barrier testing options for elementary and middle school students, and expanded access to testing through pharmacies.

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From mid-December to early January, the province will launch a mobile test barrage with “emerging tests for asymptomatic people in high-traffic public settings.” The locations for these mobile units will be revealed in the coming weeks, but they will most likely be near public spaces such as retail stores and Christmas markets.

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The locations will also be selected based on where the risk is highest, including areas with low vaccination numbers and / or higher transmission numbers.

The province will also deliver 11 million rapid antigen tests to students in publicly funded schools between late November and mid-December before winter break. Acquiring the tests will cost the government $ 50 million.

Each student will receive five exams and must assess themselves every three to four days during recess (every Monday and Thursday starting December 23). Participation in this effort is voluntary.

This program has also been offered to First Nations schools.

In late October, Ontario said all Toronto public school students will have access to take-home PCR kits, an option that will be available to more students across the province beginning in mid-November.

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This is being done to “increase access to low-barrier testing options for school-age children,” the province said. Private and First Nations schools can also participate.

PCR kits are available for students who are symptomatic or asymptomatic but who have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19.

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The number of pharmacies offering testing will increase from November 18, from 211 to 1,300 in a few weeks. This will include tests offered to symptomatic people, which were criticized when it was announced Tuesday.

Health Minister Christine Elliott defended the decision Wednesday saying pharmacies will take standard infection prevention and control measures, including wearing masks, physical distancing and a dedicated space for testing.

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Other new testing options pharmacies will offer include in-store lab-based PCR tests, self-collection lab-based PCR kits, and in-store rapid molecular (diagnostic) tests. However, not all participating stores will offer all of the above. Ontarians can view locations here.

With files from The Canadian Press

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