Ontario health officials say the province is currently aiming to conduct 16,000 coronavirus tests per day by May 6 following widespread criticism about it’s COVID-19 testing strategy.
That projection is about 3,000 tests short of Ontario’s previous pledge to have 19,000 tests per day being conducted across the province by mid-April.
In a conference call with reporters Friday, officials also discussed revised testing guidance for symptomatic people, which aims to have patients at hospitals or assessment centres receive the bulk of testing, at 4,000 per day.
According to the new guidelines, just under 3,500 tests daily tests are being allotted for hospital workers or caregivers, while another 3,450 are being estimated for other healthcare workers and first responders.
Around 2,600 tests per day will be conducted for hospital inpatients and those in long-term care settings, with another 2,250 who are in congregate care settings, according to the government’s figures.
Health officials are also aiming to conduct another 950 tests per day for Indigenous communities.
Additional testing is being planned in future for other vulnerable populations, including those with pre-existing health conditions, essential workers not in healthcare, and targeted sampling of those in northern towns.
The province plans to reach 8,000 total tests per day by April 15, and 14,000 by April 29.
Currently, the province is conducting around 4,000 tests per day in total, far short of estimates earlier this week that showed the province has the capacity to do 13,000 per day.
In Friday’s conference call, officials said while there are the supplies needed to conduct that amount of tests, the delay in using full testing capacity comes from prioritizing testing in vulnerable populations, and then subsequently getting those testing kits out to them in all areas of the province.
Earlier this week, Premier Doug Ford called the low testing levels “unacceptable” and vowed to significantly raise the numbers.
“My patience has run thin. No more excuses. It’s unacceptable,” Ford said. “We need to start doing 13,000 every single day. I want to see every single long-term care facility tested, every patient … I want to see every front-line health-care worker in this province tested.”
Ontario has consistently had the lowest testing rates among all provinces. Infectious disease experts have repeatedly called for wider testing and warned the province can’t contain the spread of COVID-19 if it doesn’t know who is infected.
Health officials said the latest testing plan has been presented to cabinet.
— With files from Andrew Russell