Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province needs to start testing "everyone possible" for COVID-19 now that Ontario has the capacity to test as many as 13,000 people per day.
Ontario is dead last among all provinces when it comes to the number of people tested for the virus. Health officials in the province have until now advised that testing be primarily conducted on priority groups, including health care workers, first-responders, jail inmates, residents of Indigenous reserves and long-term care staff and residents.
“The days are done of these two or three thousand a day being tested,” Ford said at a news conference at Queen’s Park on Wednesday. “Moving forward we need to see 13,000 tests every single day.”
As of Wednesday, Ontario has tested 575 people per 100,000, a figure which greatly lags other provinces in the country. Every other Canadian province with more than one million residents has tested at least 1,000 people per 100,000 and Alberta has tested approximately 1,500 people per 100,000.
Ford said his “patience has run thin” and there can be “no more excuses” given for the province’s low rate of testing.
"We could sit here and I could give you a list all day long of what we hear from our team," the premier said.
"But we have to move forward and learn from our mistakes in the past."
One of the reasons previously given for the lack of testing in Ontario was a shortage of reagent, the chemical solution that is used with the testing kits.
Ford said the province’s reagent supply has been replenished and Ontario needs to start ramping up testing immediately.
“We have the assessment sites ready, we have the testing capabilities right now, and we have the reagent. So there are no more excuses. We need to get it done, bottom line,” he added.
When asked if the province will change the testing criteria to include more than just priority groups, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said a “plan is in place” and details will be released shortly.
“There is a plan that we are in the process of implementing right now,” she said, adding that criteria has changed “slightly” for health care professionals.
“That will be another way that we will be able to expand our capacity very quickly.”
To date, Ontario has conducted just 84,601 tests compared to Quebec, which has tested close to 115,000. Alberta has conducted close to 70,000 tests since the beginning of the pandemic.
Ford said the province has learned lessons from other countries that “tested and tested and tested” in an effort to help flatten the curve.
"South Korea slowed he spread and flattened the curve by doing one thing, I’m sure many things, but one thing stood out to all of us. They tested and they tested and they tested. Same with Germany… but we are going to ramp it and surge the system," the premier said.
Ontario reported 550 new cases of COVID-19, which is the biggest single-day increase so far. In total, there have been 5,276 lab-confirmed cases of the virus in Ontario. The province has confirmed 174 deaths linked to the virus so far but reporting from Ontario's 34 local public health units suggest the number is actually 204.
Provincial testing per capita:
Ontario: 575 per 100,000
Alberta: 1521 per 100,000
Quebec: 1280 per 100,000
B.C.: 1006 per 100,000
Manitoba :1037 per 100,000
Saskatchewan: 1245 per 100,000
Nova Scotia: 1196 tests per 100,000
New Brunswick: 840 tests per 100,000
Newfoundland: 796 tests per 100,000
PEI: 644 tests per 100,000