Ontario significantly increasing daily lab testing amid COVID-19 pandemic


At a May 4 press conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford discussed additional measures to help cope with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, with an announcement that the Ontario government will be significantly increasing daily testing. 

Today's announcement was made by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care.

The province of Ontario announced today (May 4) that it has significantly increased testing and contact tracing capacity.

This will allow health experts to identify cases of COVID-19 and support efforts to stop the spread of the virus in the community, long-term care homes and other settings.

The Ontario government has developed an integrated laboratory system that has established the province as a national leader in daily testing volumes per capita, in partnership with Ontario Health, Public Health Ontario, local public health units and hospital and community laboratories. 

“We’ve been working around the clock to establish a vast and robust testing regime, which is critical in our fight against this deadly virus,” said Premier Ford.

“We’re now exceeding our target of 16,000 tests a day, with many of those tests aimed at protecting our long-term care residents and staff. This important milestone provides a strong foundation for gradually reopening our economy and getting people back to work, while protecting the health and safety of all Ontarians.”

Testing is being carried out in hospitals, long-term care homes, group homes, shelters, emergency child care centres, and other congregate settings and test results are generally provided within 24 to 48 hours once samples are collected and received from frontline staff, patients, residents and children.

To date, Ontario has conducted over 342,000 tests.

“Thanks to the joint efforts of this diverse group of health experts we have dramatically expanded the scale and scope of COVID-19 testing provincewide and have emerged as a national leader,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“We have met and exceeded our testing goals, which is critical to containing and limiting the spread of this new virus, both in our communities and in long-term care homes and other shared living spaces.”

The new integrated laboratory system will also support Ontario’s health-care system and laboratory network even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province-wide testing network consists of over 20 organizations and is coordinating and leveraging the diverse expertise located throughout Ontario.

This is being achieved through daily check-ins and processes that address operational needs, including levels of supplies, expected supply consumption per day, inventory replenishment and other supply chain issues, equipment information, technical capacity and advances, test turn-around times and the shifting of test samples to laboratories that have spare processing capacity, ongoing scientific and technical review of test performance, alternative approaches to processing and emerging technology.

While the province has also helped expand the capacity of public health units to conduct contact tracing and case management, the Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, provided $100 million in additional investments for public health units to support COVID-19 monitoring, testing and funding for enhanced contact tracing, which enables public health units to hire more personnel.

Additionally, Ontario previously issued an emergency order to provide public health units with the authority and flexibility they need to make staffing decisions that support efforts of containing the virus.

With the help of volunteers, public health units have been able to expand their capacity to conduct case and contact management, both of which are critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Because the COVID-19 numbers in Ontario are on the decline, reporters asked Ford when the province can expect to gather in small groups again.

To this, Ford responded by saying that the province must continue to work together in order to make this possible in the future.

“The numbers are coming down. Let’s continue working hard all together as a province,” said Ford.

“Those numbers are showing the results. Let’s just keep working on reducing the numbers.”

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