Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott are being tested for COVID-19 after Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he came into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
Mr. Lecce, who appeared alongside Mr. Ford and Ms. Elliott at an announcement at Queen’s Park on Tuesday, said in a statement that he was tested that same day, and on Wednesday he found out his results were negative.
His office did not respond to questions about who he came into contact with, when he found out and if he will go for another test. Mr. Lecce said that he has been in isolation since he was tested.
“The Premier and minister Elliott have been extremely clear: If you feel you need a test, you should get tested. We all have a role to play in combatting this virus,” Mr. Lecce said.
Some infectious-disease experts say a negative test does not necessarily mean the person is in the clear.
“Definitely not,” said Andrew Morris, medical director of the anti-microbial stewardship program at the Sinai Health System in Toronto. He said he was speaking generally and did not know the specifics of Mr. Lecce’s case.
“The incubation period on average is about four to five days … and we know that there are a substantial number of false negatives with tests,” he said, citing a figure of between 15 to 25 per cent.
Factors such as when the person came into contact with someone who has COVID-19 and how much contact they had plays a role in test results, Dr. Morris said.
“In a high-risk situation … a negative test should not totally reassure you,” he said, describing high-risk exposure as closed, unprotected and prolonged contact.
The surprise news at Queen’s Park came moments before Mr. Ford and Ms. Elliott were supposed to appear at a daily news conference with Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities.
“Premier Ford and minister Elliott will be getting tested today. Both will continue to monitor for symptoms and take appropriate action as necessary," the Premier’s Office said.
His office said it would notify the public once it receives the test results.
Mr. Romano told reporters that he only learned of the situation minutes before he took the podium.
“I know our Premier is acting out of an extreme abundance of caution and he wants to ensure that everyone on the premise here at Queen’s Park is safe,” Mr. Romano said.
“We’ve all been following social-distancing protocols, and we all continue to do so.”
On Tuesday, Toronto City Councillor Michael Ford, the Premier’s nephew, said he has tested positive for COVID-19 – the first known local politician in Canada’s largest city to contract the novel coronavirus.
A spokeswoman for the Premier said he has “not been in contact” with his nephew over the past two weeks. “The Premier remains in good health,” Ivana Yelich said in an e-mail. “We wish councillor Ford a speedy recovery.”
Dr. Morris said public-health officials should continue to give guidance to those who have received tests, which could include monitoring for symptoms or self-isolating.
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