Ontario Premier Doug Ford leaves a press conference in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. The Ontario government is expanding access to COVID-19 testing by offering it at up to 60 pharmacies within the province starting this Friday. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)

Ontario pharmacies to begin COVID-19 testing on Friday

The Ontario government is expanding access to COVID-19 testing by offering it at up to 60 pharmacies within the province starting this Friday.

According to the press release from the Ontario government, individuals with no symptoms of the virus will be able to get a test at no charge at select pharmacies by appointment only.

More locations are expected to begin testing in the coming weeks as well. 

“We rely on our pharmacists for our flu shots, prescriptions, and important health advice for ourselves and our families. It makes sense to engage them as key partners in delivering more COVID-19 testing. I have to thank Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall, and the independent pharmacies who have stepped up in a big way to help expand testing to more people in the province.”Ontario Premier Doug Ford

Expanding COVID-19 testing is part of Ontario’s plan to prepare their health care system for a second wave of COVID-19 cases across the province. It will also expand Ontario’s testing capacity beyond the province’s current 150 assessment centres. 

“Ontario pharmacy professionals are providing care to patients on the frontlines and continue to step up with solutions to support patients during the pandemic,” said Justin Bates, the chief executive officer of the Ontario Pharmacists Association. “As we enter the flu season and a potential second wave of the pandemic, pharmacy professionals stand ready to do their part in helping curb the spread of the virus.”

In addition, three hospitals, Women’s College, Mount Sinai and University Health Network-Toronto Western Hospital, will begin offering saliva tests this week. The press release added that more assessment centres will begin offering the less invasive saliva test in the coming weeks. 

Cases in Ontario have been rising over the last couple of days. On Wednesday, the Ontario government reported an increase of 335 cases, and on Thursday, another 409 cases were reported. Since the start of the pandemic, Ontario has had a total of 48, 496 cases, and 2,836 deaths. 

“As part of our plan to ensure that we are ready for future waves of COVID-19, our government is working with pharmacies to help expand testing for Ontarians. With a recent increase in the number of cases, we are making sure people have more options for testing to identify cases of COVID-19 early.”Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott

“We must not let our guard down. Our best defense is still to follow all public health measures like practising physical distancing, wearing face masks and staying home when ill, so we can stop the spread of COVID-19,” she added. 

The Ontario government also encouraged its residents to get flu shots during the pandemic and has invested almost $70 million to purchase and distribute 5.1 million flu vaccines this fall. 

Doctors in Ontario had recently made an urgent call for financial help with flu vaccines during the pandemic. 

With files from CBC News

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