TORONTO – Scientific experts advising Ontario on the pandemic are set to issue new recommendations for rapid testing, with one of the group’s leaders saying it’s okay to use more frequent tests. reasonable.
Dr Peter Juni, scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Panel, said the team plans to publish a scientific summary on the matter on Wednesday. The group’s communications director then said it would be announced in the coming days.
There are growing calls for tests to be made more widely available as COVID-19 cases increase. While it’s still unclear how they work with the new Omicron variant, Juni says they work with the Delta variant that accounts for the majority of Ontario cases.
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Juni said in an interview: “From a scientific perspective, the use of rapid tests is more frequent, such as in schools, in the workplace, in centralized settings and for making tests. Express check is more available in this province.
Opposition lawmakers have called on the province to distribute the rapid tests more widely, especially in schools.
The rapid tests are now freely available to businesses and are also sold in some pharmacies to asymptomatic people who have not been exposed to a confirmed case.
They have also been distributed in schools in areas where there is a high likelihood of transmission for students with COVID-19 symptoms or considered close contacts of a confirmed case. The government also said it plans to send all students home with five quick tests during the December holiday.
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But beyond that holiday plan, the rapid tests have not yet been made available to all students, although families across the province have sought to reach them.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday that Ontarians have access to some form of free COVID-19 testing in most cases.
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“The only time we actually ask people to pay for the tests is if they need it for travel purposes, which I think is fair,” she said.
Ontario offers free PCR testing for people with COVID-19 symptoms, close contacts of a case, and members of certain groups. Those tests are available at assessment centers and pharmacies, among other locations, and the province says most results will be available in 48 hours.
Results from most rapid tests will be available in about 15 minutes, according to the province.
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A spokesman for the minister said the province currently has 5.75 million rapid antigen tests in stock and as of November 29 has shipped 33.35 million.
Ontario already distributes about a million tests a week and is increasing during the holiday period, Alexandra Hilkene said. That includes 11 million tests for public schools and First Nation, and the tests will be sent to pop-up sites in higher-risk areas, she added.
Ontario’s top doctor, Dr Kieran Moore, said the province is working with the federal government to expand its testing strategy and is expected to make an announcement about ramping up tests in the coming weeks. next.
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Liberal Party leader John Fraser said more testing should be done more quickly, especially during the winter months, which often see infections on the rise.
“I am still bewildered as to why millions upon millions of agile tests are sitting in unused, undistributed warehouses, when jurisdictions around the world use agile tests, they give it to the family, they give it to the people at the airport,” he said. “It’s just another tool to protect us.”
NDP leader Andrea Horwath said on Monday the tests would be free for everyone.
“Nobody has to pay for a quick test. It has to be part of our public health care system,” she said.
– With files from Maan Alhmidi
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