Ford government spending $1 billion to boost COVID-19 testing, tracing
Chris Herhalt, CP24.com
Published Thursday, September 24, 2020 5:09AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 24, 2020 1:52PM EDT
The Ford government will spend $1 billion in the coming months to drastically improve COVID-19 testing and contact management efforts, opening the door to possible testing in doctors' offices and during home care visits.
Ford said the announcement will increase testing capacity across the province, but he reiterated that Health Canada must approve rapid coronavirus testing kits.
“We are investing over $1 billion in expanded testing and contact tracing. That’s $1 billion to support testing and this investment will make a huge difference. But, until we get Health Canada’s approval for new rapid tests, rapid testing that other jurisdictions are currently using, until we get those rapid tests, the health experts are telling us that we need to be more strategic with testing," Ford said of the expenditure, also referring to more restricted testing guidelines released earlier on Thursday, but he reiterated the new rationing of tests would not deny anyone who legitimately needed a test from getting one.
"No one who needs a test will be turned away."
In addition, the province will hire 500 more public health nurses in addition to the 500 hired recently to support testing and contact tracing.
Earlier this summer, officials said there as many as 4,000 people available to conduct contact tracing for known COVID-19 cases across the province.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the new funding will eventually allow the health system to conduct COVID-19 tests in doctor's offices and during home care visits "in certain circumstances."
She said the province will also spend $30 million to prepare vulnerable locations such as jails, long-term care facilities, group homes, hospitals and retirement residences for outbreaks.
Ford said that he is aware of seven different rapid COVID-19 tests being evaluated by Health Canada at the moment.
He called the approval of any one of them "a game changer" and urged the federal government to at least give the province a timeline of when one could be approved.
He urged Health Canada to at least tell his government roughly when one of them will be approved for use.
"They have a couple people working on this and hopefully we will get an answer sooner rather than later," Ford said. "It affects everyone, when we can't get an answer – which is beyond me – saying 'we're going to be finishing the testing (approval) on this day,' we can plan around that."
"Even if they tell us it will be a month down the road, that's all we need."