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Ontario COVID response: 50,000 tests a day, harsh fines for violating distancing rules

Ontario COVID response: 50,000 tests a day, harsh fines for violating distancing rules

Health Minister Christine Elliott says that Ontario is working to ramp up its testing capacity to  around 50,000 specimens a day “within a month or so.”

Earlier in the pandemic the province was stuck at around 5,000 tests a day, a rate that put them last in Canada on a per-capita basis.

The Ford government has, however, significantly ramped up testing since then and for the last several months its labs have regularly turned around more than 25,000 tests each day.

Speaking with reporters during a briefing at Queen’s Park on Wednesday, Elliot said that the province is now “actively working” at increasing its testing capacity again with the goal of hitting 50,000 a day by sometime in October.

Her comments come as lineups continue to get longer and longer at assessment centres in the GTA with some people reportedly waiting up to three hours just to get a swab for COVID-19 and others being turned away entirely.

“We don’t have a definite date for it but we are actively working towards that with Ontario Health. But of course you have to have the testing and the labs working in tandem because it is not worth much if you can have a test done in a short period of time but it takes you four days or a week for the results to come back,” she said. “So we are moving forward with both of them. Ontario Health is reaching out to other partners in the community that can help us with increasing the lab tests as well.”

Premier Doug Ford has called the lineups at assessment centres “ridiculous” but has indicated that his government will address them through a soon to be announced partnership with major pharmacy chains that will allow asymptomatic Ontarians to get a COVID-19 test at “thousands” of additional locations. Even though Ontario has experienced a spike in new COVID cases, because of the increase in testing, the province is still running at about a one percent infection rate.

Meanwhile   Premier Doug Ford is pushing to rollback social gathering limits in the province’s three COVID-19 hotspots and said “severe fines” will be issued to anyone who ignores public health guidelines.

Social gathering limits will likely be reduced in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa after Ford meets with his cabinet on Wednesday to discuss making changes to the current guidelines.

Ford said that the “highest fines in the country” will also be put in place to stop people from breaking the regulations. “There are going to be severe fines for people who want to ignore the regulations and the guidelines

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