Employers who continue to insist that their workers test negative for COVID-19 in order to return to their jobs following an illness ought to stop that practice “immediately,” Peel’s top public health official says.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh made the comment during a briefing at Mississauga City Hall on Thursday, as he discussed a shift to “focus less on preventing infections alone and more on preventing severe outcomes” due to the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

“I understand that certain employers in our community are requiring proof of negative tests following illness in order for employees to return to work. This practice should stop immediately. To be clear if your symptoms have resolved and your isolation period is over no test is needed to return to work,” he said. “I urge employers to revise their testing policies to eliminate a focus on negative tests for return to work. If anything, you should be looking at vaccination policies rather than exclusions on the basis of test results.”

Ontario currently recommends that anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 isolate for a period of five to 10 days, depending on their age and vaccination status.

Loh said that should be the policy for most workplaces too, with the exception of a handful of high-risk settings where workers remain eligible for free PCR testing, including health-care and long-term care.

He said that workplaces are also no longer required to report cases to Peel Public Health, as contact tracing is now only being conducted in the “highest risk settings.”

“You do not need a test to confirm a diagnosis of COVID-19,” he said. “If you or anyone else is sick stay home, review your symptoms against the provincial screening tool and please follow the directions on how long and who should self-isolate. Once your self isolation period has passed and provided your symptoms are resolving you do not need a negative test to confirm the end of your isolation.”