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Ontario no longer offering free COVID-19 tests for international travel

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. The Canadian Press file

The Ontario government says COVID-19 tests will no longer be free for people requiring proof of a negative test for international travel destinations.

The new testing guidelines came into effect on Friday.

“Effective December 11, 2020, individuals requesting a COVID-19 test for international travel clearance are no longer eligible for a publicly funded COVID-19 test in Ontario,” the government said in a news release.

The provincial government said the step is being taken to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used for key priorities and to preserve capacity within the publicly funded COVID-19 testing network.

Read more: Premier Doug Ford on hand for 1st shipment of COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario

Ontario said if a COVID-19 test is required for travel clearance that travellers should look at private testing facilities, such as a travel clinic, for a fee.

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Shoppers Drug Mart is offering COVID-19 tests, by appointment, for international outbound travel for people who are asymptomatic. The cost for a test is $199 plus tax. Results take typically between 24 and 48 hours according to its website.

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“The best way to stop COVID-19 is to limit close contacts to the people you live with,” the government said. “As such, travel is not recommended, and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.”

In the fall, Ontario updated its testing guidelines to prioritize those who are at the greatest risk of getting the virus. The province said it will continue to provide free testing to anyone who needs it per provincial testing guidelines including symptomatic people or to close contacts.

“Anyone who falls within the current Provincial Testing Guidance should continue to seek publicly funded testing, available at participating pharmacies and assessment centres,” the government said.

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