Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his government will keep relying on local medical officers of health to reinstate pandemic restrictions as COVID-19 infections rise in the province.
Health units covering Sudbury, Ont., and the Algoma region in northern Ontario have reintroduced pandemic measures as cases spike, including business capacity limits the province lifted last month.
Ford says that local approach makes sense because the risk is lower than in previous infection waves now that more people are vaccinated.
He says his government will also keep heeding the advice of the province’s top doctor.
Southwestern Public Health said this week it was considering further pandemic measures to alleviate pressure on the local health system.
Symptomatic tests in pharmacies
A senior Ontario government source says pharmacies in the province will soon be able to start offering COVID-19 tests for symptomatic people.
Currently, pharmacies can only do COVID-19 tests for people without symptoms, who haven’t been in contact with someone with COVID-19, and aren’t part of an outbreak investigation.
The testing is largely intended for residents, workers and visitors of long-term care homes, Indigenous individuals, and people who need out-of-country medical services.
The source, who isn’t authorized to speak publicly ahead of an upcoming announcement, says pharmacies - if they opt in - will soon be able to offer PCR swab tests for people with symptoms and high-risk contacts of people with COVID-19.
The pharmacies will also be able to serve as drop-off points for at-home tests, if they want to participate in the program.
Pharmacies will be expected to have a dedicated space in which to perform the tests, physical distancing, time between tests to allow for cleaning, and put up signage indicating the location provides symptomatic testing.
Ontario COVID-19 numbers
Ontario is reporting 481 COVID-19 cases and one new death from the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says 292 of the new cases are in people not fully vaccinated or with unknown vaccination status, and 189 of the infected people are fully vaccinated.
There were 139 patients in intensive care due to COVID-related critical illness, including 82 people on ventilators.
The province says 88 per cent of Ontario residents aged 12 and older have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 85 per cent have received both shots.
As of Tuesday, the province says Public Health Ontario will do genome sequencing on eligible COVID-19 samples to proactively identify potential new virus variants.
A spokeswoman for Elliott says the agency is shifting its screening strategy for COVID-19 samples because nearly all new cases are now the Delta variant.
This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.