TORONTO – Rapid antigen COVID-19 tests will not be available to the general Ontario population for some time amid supply shortages and the ongoing virus growth – but people with the means to access them will soon be out of virus-related isolation. can exit. ,
Officials said Thursday that people who develop symptoms can resume their regular activities sooner than the required five days – new for fully vaccinated people and children under 12. Isolation period – if two rapid tests are at least 24 hours apart, and if their symptoms improve for 24 hours.
It is still recommended that people who are ill stay home until symptoms improve.
The update came as the province set out its comprehensive plans this month to increase the supply of at least 54.3 million rapid tests expected from the federal government, out of another 85 million tests procured provincially.
With demand for rapid testing predicted to rise to 18 million tests weekly – and gold-standard PCR tests restricted to those at the highest risk – the province said it would be expanding rapidly to high-risk areas such as hospitals. Testing will need to be a priority, for long-term care homes and jobs with a vaccine-or-test mandate.
The province’s top physician, Dr. Kieran Moore, advised that if people develop symptoms of COVID-19, they should go without testing to confirm their diagnosis, noting that some other viruses are currently causing congestion, fatigue. Common symptoms like headache, walking around. or muscle pain.
“At the moment, given the high community spread of COVID-19, testing is a luxury,” Moore said at a news conference on Thursday.
“The vast majority of Ontarians will be able to stay at home, taking a Tylenol or ibuprofen or fluids to help us relieve our symptoms.”
He added that every Ontarian should monitor for symptoms as the Omicron variant continues to spread.
He said the province is “lucky” that Omicron results in more mild disease at the individual level, but it is putting pressure on the health system because of the variant’s transmissibility, which is driving infections to record levels.
It is not known exactly how many Ontarians are currently infected with COVID-19 due to reduced access to PCR tests due to recent policy changes. The province reported 13,339 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, but Public Health Ontario has warned that the actual number of cases is likely to be higher.
Twenty new virus deaths were also reported on Thursday, as hospitalizations climbed to 2,279 COVID-19 patients, including 319 in intensive care.
Rapid tests are being reserved for a test-to-work plan so that people can resume work immediately after exposure, routine testing of workers in high-risk jobs and for people who do not qualify for PCR tests. Huh.
Supplies will go first to settings such as long-term care homes, hospitals, shelters and Indigenous communities, with supplies for some education settings and workplaces with vaccination-or-testing mandates.
With more than two million rapid tests distributed free of charge to the public in the month of December, supplies quickly stalled as pop-up sites drew long lines in malls, transit hubs and liquor stores.
The initiative will not continue as the province rations its rapid testing supplies for key areas. However, people can pay to have access to rapid tests at pharmacies or purchase them from certain retailers or producers.
The province said it plans to expand public access to rapid testing, but it will depend on supplies.
On Wednesday, several stringent health measures – including widespread business closures and a temporary return to online schooling – went into effect in Ontario to rein in Omicron and preserve the capacity of the health system.
The province has also directed hospitals to stop non-urgent surgeries due to COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
Moore said the decision to have surgery to free up hospital space was taken “regretfully” and added that he expects the new restrictions, which will last at least three weeks, to improve after a “tough January”.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 6, 2022.
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