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Ontario Announces Plans to Curb COVID-19 Spread This Winter

Ontario will send every student home with five rapid tests for the holidays this year

This is being done to make sure kids do not return to school in January with COVID-19 and will help students spend time with family safely over the holidays. 

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott also announced today they will expanding the number of testing locations in Ontario. She says these new testing options are being deployed as more people head indoors and attend family gatherings during the colder winter months.

"While vaccination remains the best way to protect against COVID-19, testing remains a key part of our pandemic response by detecting cases earlier and providing an additional layer of safety. 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." 

Ontario will be deploying the following strategies over the next couple of weeks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 during the winter months: 

- Access to publicly funded COVID-19 PCR specimen collection in select pharmacies for all individuals eligible for testing, including symptomatic individuals and close contacts. Pharmacies must choose to opt-in to this service and will be required to follow stringent infection prevention and control measures to protect staff, patients and customers against COVID-19.

- Providing take-home PCR self-collection kits for eligible individuals, allowing them to pick up their free test and drop off their specimens at participating pharmacies across Ontario, providing a more convenient and consistent testing option in rural and remote areas.

- Expanding ID NOW rapid PCR testing to select assessment centres and pharmacies across Northern Ontario in the coming weeks, increasing access to convenient local testing and allowing individuals to get quick results in these communities.

- Bringing asymptomatic testing directly to Ontarians with pop-up testing sites in higher-traffic public settings to provide vaccine education and help reduce the risk of transmission over the holidays. Starting in mid-December, testing options will be offered to people without symptoms in various settings across the province. Sites will be announced in the coming weeks and will be selected based on a risk analysis of hot-spot zones.

The plan for schools includes the following: 

- Providing take-home PCR self-collection kits to all publicly funded schools for students and staff who are eligible for testing as per the provincial testing guidance. All private and First Nation schools have also been asked if they would like to access take-home PCR self-collection kits. Students will be able to drop off their specimens at a convenient community location, including participating pharmacies across Ontario.

- Distributing 11 million rapid antigen screening tests to all public schools ahead of the December break to add an additional layer of protection over the holiday period and as students return to school in January. Each student will take home a pack of five rapid antigen tests to use over the holidays and throughout the return to in-person learning. All First Nation schools will also have the opportunity to participate.

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