The Ontario government says starting Tuesday, Oct. 6, all assessment centres across the province will only test people for COVID-19 if they have an appointment.
“As the weather begins to worsen, we can’t have people waiting in the cold, waiting in the rain and snow to get a test,” Premier Doug Ford said at his daily briefing Friday.
“In order for our assessment centres to make the necessary adjustments and in order to winterize their operations, beginning Sunday, Oct. 4, assessment centres will not be accepting walk-ins,” Ford added.
Sunday and Monday will see no walk-in testing at assessment centres.
The transition to appointment-based testing comes as the backlog of samples hits more than 90,000.
“This will also give the labs a critical opportunity to clear the testing backlog,” Ford said.
Ontario has been processing around 40,000 tests a day.
The province said it is looking at increasing testing capacity to 50,000 tests a day by mid-October and 68,000 tests per day by mid-November.
Over the past few weeks, people trying to get tests have reported waiting hours in long lines. Images have emerged of hundreds of people lined up along sidewalks and around blocks waiting to get tested while drive-thru assessment centres have been filled with cars.
Some pharmacies across the province are now offering coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people, but also by appointment only.
The government said there are currently 80 pharmacies participating with more to come in the coming weeks.
“Being able to make an appointment, it gives certainty. It will make sure that folks don’t have to wait outside for hours. It will help us ensure necessary screening takes place to ensure those who need a test can get a test. And it will help us ensure we can get your results back sooner” Ford said.
On Friday, Ontario reported 732 cases of coronavirus, a new provincial record.