Ontario is shortening its COVID-19 isolation period for some individuals and introducing new testing guidelines for the public, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore announced Thursday.

Effective immediately, the province is shortening the required isolation period from ten days to five for vaccinated individuals.

Moore said the decision was made based on "growing evidence that generally healthy people with COVID-19 are most infectious for the two days before their symptoms develop and for three days after."

Individuals with COVID-19 who are vaccinated, as well as children under 12, will only be required to isolate for five days following the onset of symptoms. Isolation for these individuals can end after the five-day period as long as their symptoms have improved for at least 24 hours, the government says. Their household contacts will also be required to isolate with them.

Individuals who are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised will still be required to isolate for 10 days.

Individuals who work or live in high-risk health-care settings should not attend work for 10 days, the province says, but will now have “the opportunity” to return to work after isolating for seven days with proof of a negative PCR or rapid antigen test results “to ensure sufficient staffing levels.”

If you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID 19 and you are fully vaccinated, have no symptoms and don't live with a positive case, the province is now recommending monitoring for symptoms for 10 days.

NEW TESTING GUIDELINES

Moore also announced revised COVID-19 testing guidelines for the province on Thursday.

Beginning Dec. 31, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests will only be available for symptomatic high-risk individuals and those who work in the highest risk settings, as well as vulnerable populations. However, Ontario public schools will remain one of the few groups permitted to distribute PCR tests to symptomatic students and staff.

For a full list of those eligible for PCR testing, click here.

Members of the general public with mild symptoms are now being asked not to seek testing.

“If you have symptoms of COVID-19, are not eligible for a PCR test and do not have access to a rapid antigen test, you should assume that you have COVID-19 and isolate according to our revised guidelines,” Moore said.

In addition, most individuals with a positive result from a rapid antigen test will no longer be required or encouraged to get a confirmatory PCR or rapid molecular test. They will also not be required to report their results to their corresponding public health unit, unless otherwise directed by public health.

At this point, the province is recommended that rapid antigen COVID-19 tests be used "for screening of people with no symptoms to identify and prevent cases of COVID-19 in hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes, and other high-risk settings."

Following Thursday’s announcement, Ontario’s New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Andrea Horwath called on Premier Ford to reverse the decision to restrict testing, claiming Ford was "surrending Ontario to COVID-19."

"People are reeling from Ford’s decision to deny free [COVID-19] PCR tests to all but high-risk symptomatic people,” Horwath said in a statement issued Thursday. “We need to ramp up to make testing more available, not cut people off.”

"Meanwhile, telling people to simply stay home instead of getting a test is shockingly cruel when Ford won’t give people adequate paid sick days,” she said.

The province also announced reduced capacity limits at large spectator venues, and delayed the return to school until Jan. 5 on Thursday.

Ontario reported 13,807 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, shattering past single-day records in the province.