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Toronto Paramedics prepare the Mobile COVID-19 TTC testing bus at a stop in Toronto on Dec. 9, 2020.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

A small fleet of mobile COVID-19 testing centres is helping Toronto communities track the spread of the virus.

Six decommissioned Toronto Transit Commission buses have been retrofitted by the City of Toronto to help serve neighbourhoods where getting to a testing centre can be difficult.

Kyle MacCallum, the superintendent of community paramedicine for Toronto Paramedic Services, said that the program is off to a good start in its first full week of operation.

“The test days that we did this week we were looking at around 100 per day,” said MacCallum, who said that during trial runs in the summer and fall there were up to 300 people tested.

“So far it’s been a success. We’ve been able to deploy these resources to areas that have had not great access to testing, places that don’t have that indoor space.”

The locations of the pop-up testing sites are posted on the city’s website, and are usually in the parking lots of community centres or hockey arenas.

Oakdale Community Centre, Driftwood Community Centre, East York Community Centre, and Angela James Arena are just four of the sites used in the past week.

“We bring the test centre to them as opposed to them having to go to the test centre,” said MacCallum.

Getting tested on the buses is a relatively quick process.

A public-health worker gathers a resident’s personal contact information – everything needed to get the test results back to them – in a step that MacCallum estimates takes about five minutes. Then it’s on to the nasal swab itself, which he said takes under a minute.MacCallum said that there are no plans to add to the fleet of mobile testing centres but, depending on how the next few months of the pandemic play out, that could change.

“As we all know, COVID-19 is an ever-changing environment, and there may be an additional need for more in the future,” said MacCallum.

Toronto public health reported 469 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday.

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