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Ontario’s Health Minister says people with COVID-19 symptoms can be safely tested for the virus in pharmacies.

Safety concerns were raised in the legislature Wednesday about the proposed plan, but Christine Elliott said infection and control measures will be followed.

She said parts of rural and Northern Ontario have a need for testing options, and precautions will be taken to keep people safe.

She also said there will be a list of participating pharmacies and signage posted outside so people know before entering the facility.

The Opposition New Democrats asked Wednesday whether the testing rules are being changed after lobbying efforts, but Ms. Elliott said they based the decision on the advice of top health officials.

Ontario pharmacies are currently only able to perform COVID-19 tests for people who don’t have symptoms, haven’t been in contact with an infected person and aren’t connected to an outbreak.

Meanwhile, a person under the age of 20 is among 12 new COVID-19 deaths the province reported Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Elliott said the government is sending its condolences to the family of the deceased, and won’t offer any more information out of respect for their privacy.

The news came as Ontario reported another 512 cases of COVID-19.

Ms. Elliott said 310 of Wednesday’s new cases were in people who are not fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown.

She said 274 COVID-19 patients are in hospital, and 133 are in intensive-care units.

Only 19 of the ICU patients have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the rest either not fully vaccinated or with an unknown vaccination status.

The province said 88.8 per cent of residents aged 12 and older have at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 85.7 per cent are fully vaccinated.

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