Local health official happy with province's COVID-19 testing restrictions
KITCHENER -- A local health official running COVID-19 assessment centres in Waterloo Region says she supports the province's decision to restrict who can go for a test.
On Thursday, the government said the restrictions will help ease widespread lineups at assessment centres across Ontario. Premier Doug Ford also pledged $1 billion to expand testing and contact tracing.
Kitchener's drive-thru testing centre moved to pre-booked appointments on Thursday after it shut down early on Wednesday. Staff reportedly faced verbal abuse and threats of violence.
Other testing centres in the region were also faced with long line ups and wait times.
Testing is now limited to people experiencing symptoms or those who have had close contacts to others who tested positive for the disease.
"They are asking people to only get a test if you have COVID-19 symptoms, if you've been exposed to a known case or are a resident or work in a setting that has a COVID outbreak," Ford said Thursday.
"I'm very supportive of the new requirements that have been put in place to prioritize certain groups," said Lee Fairclough, head of Waterloo Region's COVID-19 assessment centres.
The province has also promised funding to enhance testing and contact tracing with new sites and up to 1,000 new staff.
Sites in Waterloo Region have already ramped up capacity and staff. Officials said they're now testing up to three times the number of people they'd seen before.
"We are very active, just working on new locations," Fairclough said.
Anyone without symptoms have been directed to go to a pharmacy, which will offer COVID-19 testing by appointment only starting Friday. However, none of those locations are in southwestern Ontario.
"It's a real issue in our region and the province needs to step up and fix the problem," said Mike Schriener, Green Party leader and Guelph MPP.
The premier has promised additional COVID-19 testing at local pharmacies soon.
"The folks in southwestern Ontario, I will have an announcement in the coming days for available pharmacies as well," Ford said.
But for now, people without symptoms in Waterloo Region will need to wait.
"Temporarily, on a go-forward basis, we won't be booking in people who are asymptomatic," Fairclough said.