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Downtown Ottawa COVID-19 testing sites to open at McNabb Centre, NAC parking garage

Digital screens on the side of the National Arts Centre display the message "Everything will be okay" and a rainbow, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday, April 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Ottawa will get a new COVID-19 assessment centre within walking distance for people who live in the downtown core later this month while the city’s drive-thru testing site will shift to the National Arts Centre as the colder weather sets in.

Both sites will be run by the Ottawa Hospital, the city announced Friday.

The Coventry Road drive-thu coronavirus testing centre, which has been running in the parking lot of the RCGT Stadium since late August, will close on Monday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m.

Read more: Demand for coronavirus testing is down, but positive cases spike across Canada

It will be replaced by a new testing centre in the NAC parking garage, which is better insulated from cold weather, on Thursday, Nov. 19.

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The new process will see residents first confirm their registration at the Ottawa City Hall parking garage and then drive the short distance down Elgin Street to the NAC for the test, according to the city’s announcement.

The new drive-thru site will take appointments from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.

A new site that most downtown residents can walk to will also open the following week at the McNabb Community Centre on Percy Street.

That site will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Three community health centres in downtown Ottawa — Sandy Hill, Somerset West and Centretown — have also started offering limited coronavirus testing appointments in addition to health assessments for neighbourhood residents.

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The City of Ottawa said in a statement that the two new sites and expanding testing to community health centres are efforts to engage people disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

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Community testing response teams have also been active in Ottawa’s shelters and other conjugate living settings.

Urban councillors have long been pushing for more accessible testing for Ottawa’s downtown residents.

Starting Friday, testing hours will be scaled back at the Brewer Assessment Centre for both the children and adult streams over the weekend. Appointments will be now available from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Brewer from Friday through Sunday.

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, said fewer people are showing up on weekends to get tested.

Ottawa’s COVID-19 Testing Taskforce said in its Thursday update that the number of people presenting for testing in the city has fallen off in recent days as case numbers spike across the province.

The group encouraged anyone in Ottawa experiencing even mild symptoms of COVID-19 to present for testing, reassuring residents that testing capacity has improved in recent weeks and the shift to appointment-based bookings has removed the long lineups that marked the local testing situation in September.

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