Ontario Premier Doug Ford has called on Health Canada to focus on reviewing rapid COVID-19 antigen tests in the hope that one will be approved and used to alleviate the surging testing demand in the province.
“That should be their number one priority,” Ford said.
“I know Health Canada is doing a great job. They’re extremely, extremely busy but this should be the number one priority.”
Ford made the remarks during a rare Saturday press conference in which he announced that new gathering restrictions would be expanded to the entire province amid a spike in coronavirus cases.
Antigen tests aren’t as accurate as the tests currently used in Ontario, which require processing in a lab, but could deliver results in minutes.
“Is it one hundred per cent? No, but it sure is a lot better than having hours of lineups outside the testing centres. It’s absolutely critical. Health Canada please focus on this,” Ford said.
There have been hours-long waits at some of the province’s 148 assessment centres in recent days.
Ford has already said he will be releasing a plan to open up COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic individuals at pharmacies in a bid to help with the recent spike in demand.
Health Minister Christine Elliott also said Saturday that eight assessment centres across Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa have increased capacity. Elliott said additionally, seven pop-up testing sites have launched in the regions and more are coming.
Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said she understands that Health Canada is currently reviewing six antigen tests and added that they’re “a lot easier” than the current testing kits but can be less accurate.
Meanwhile, NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh said in a statement Saturday that the “Ford government was not prepared for this spike in cases, and they should have been.”
Singh cited the long lineups at testing centres as an example.