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Testing now under scrutiny as new COVID cases are above 400 again

The graph of new COVID cases in Ontario is starting to trend upward in the last few days and it could delay some of the lockdown relaxation measures that appeared to be just around the corner. The province has reported another 413 new cases of COVID-19, which marks a continuation of a worrying upward trend. It is an increase from the 390 new cases confirmed on Wednesday and represents the second highest number of new cases reported in any 24-hour period over the last two weeks.

So far this week Ontario has seen its rolling five-day average of new cases steadily increase just as the economy partially reopens. That number was 326 on Monday but since then has went to 360, 370 and now 375. The Ministry of Health is also reporting another 31 deaths in people who have contracted COVID-19, bringing the total death toll confirmed by the province so far to 1,993.

Meanwhile there have been calls for an urgent expansion of its testing for the novel coronavirus. After several consecutive days where Ontario appeared to be meeting its testing targets of 16,000 plus tests per day, the province has been averaging less than half that number since the Holiday Monday.

While experts in the field say widespread testing is essential to monitor the spread of COVID-19 as Ontario eases its emergency restrictions, they also agree it won’t just happen because the premier demands it. Doubling or tripling testing and lab processing “isn’t as simple as it sounds,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, infectious disease specialist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton and an associate professor at McMaster University. The province has completed its goal of testing all residents and staff at long-term care homes and the drop in testing may be due to a lack of plan to figure out how to identify the next population to test.

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