TORONTO -- Ontario has a significant backlog of driving tests in regions with some of the highest rates of COVID-19 after pandemic restrictions forced the cancellation of road exams.

About 18,000 road tests have been cancelled in the province's lockdown zones since late November, the transportation ministry said this week. Those areas include Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region.

"DriveTest is experiencing a significant backlog of examinations and we continue to ask for the public's patience as we work through this," said ministry spokesman Michael Fenn.

The government cancelled all in-vehicle road tests in lockdown zones as of Nov. 23.

It also prohibited residents from areas under lockdown from booking a road test in a region with fewer pandemic restrictions.

DriveTest centres in lockdown zones are still open for services such as knowledge tests, with capacity limits in place.

Elizabeth Deshko, a Ryerson University student in Toronto, said she's been trying to book a road test since September and was unable to get a spot.

"They said they don't know when they will get back to normal operations," she said.

The transportation ministry said the province plans to hire more than 130 temporary driver examiners to help with the backlog.

It said this will "make more road tests available and lower wait times to ensure that people who need a road test can get one as quickly as possible."

Meanwhile, the ministry said there have been instances of third-party websites and individuals offering road test appointments at a premium.

Similar to concert ticket scalpers, these individuals book multiple appointment slots and re-sell them for profit, it said.

The province said it is working with its examination provider, DriveTest, on fixing the issue.

"The DriveTest booking system is the only official channel to book a road test and we recommend that Ontarians use this channel to book their tests," the ministry said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2020.