Home World Politics Ontario rolls out rapid tests for COVID-19. Here’s where they’re going first

Ontario rolls out rapid tests for COVID-19. Here’s where they’re going first

Ontario is rolling out almost 1.3 million rapid-testing kits to help diagnose and contain COVID-19 outbreaks more quickly in hospitals, community hot spots, nursing homes and remote areas.

The long-awaited move follows delivery of the tests from the federal government, with about 1.5 million more expected by the end of December.

Producing results in as little as 20 minutes, the tests are “an extra layer of defence” in screening for the virus, Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday as the province reported an unusually low 1,009 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 deaths.

That’s down from a record 1,589 new infections, but the Ministry of Health said the numbers were skewed by differences in the times they were counted. The seven-day average is 1,395, near its all-time high set last week.

“With the numbers where they are, testing is crucial,” Ford said at Humber River Hospital, which is one of 22 getting the rapid test kits in the coming weeks.

There are 1.2 million test kits from Panbio and 98,000 Abbott ID Now tests.

They are already in use at six of Ontario’s more than 600 nursing homes and 27 retirement homes as part of a program that will expand to Ontario Power Generation — which supplies much of the province’s electricity — Air Canada and auto parts giant Magna.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there will be a pilot project for other employers to see how well the tests work in identifying workers who have COVID-19 but are not showing symptoms, which could be key to limiting outbreaks on the job.

In neighbourhoods with high case positivity rates, such as parts of Brampton or northwest Toronto, the tests can be used at pop-up testing sites and in community health centres, she added.

Results of the rapid tests will be “carefully evaluated” for accuracy and can be used to determine if a person needs a nasal swab that is sent to a lab for processing with results not known for at least a day or two, Elliott said.

New Democrat MPP Catherine Fife (Waterloo) said the rollout of the rapid tests has been too slow.

Labs across the province can process about 50,000 nasal swab tests daily but did just over 27,000 on Monday due to lower attendance at assessment centres over the weekend.

There were 497 new cases in Toronto and 175 in Peel Region, both of which are now under lockdown, and 118 in Durham.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 increased by 27 to 534 patients, with 159 in intensive care and 91 on ventilators. Officials had warned that some non-emergency surgeries may be delayed once ICU levels hit 150 COVID patients.



A week ago, there were 127 patients in ICU and 75 on ventilators, with the increase since then reflecting the overall rise in cases throughout the fall.

Ten of the 14 new deaths were in nursing homes, where the case count continues to mount steadily, with 40 more residents and seven staff testing positive for the virus.

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