Ontario allowing shorter isolation following 2 negative rapid tests
TORONTO — Ontarians with COVID-19 symptoms can leave isolation sooner than the required five days if two rapid antigen tests come back negative.
Officials say people can resume their regular activities if they receive two negative rapid test results separated by 24 to 48 hours and if their symptoms improve for 24 hours.
The province says it expects rapid test demand will increase to 18 million per week as the Omicron variant spreads, and supply will be limited to high-risk areas for now.
The province says the federal government has committed to send 54.3 million rapid tests to Ontario for January, and the province has purchased 85 million additional tests.
Rapid tests are being reserved in Ontario for test-to-work plans so people can resume work sooner after an exposure, regular testing of workers in high-risk jobs and for people with symptoms who aren’t eligible for PCR tests.
Supply will go first to settings like long-term care homes, hospitals, shelters and Indigenous communities, with further supply for some education settings and workplaces with vaccinate-or-test mandates.
The province says it’s developing plans to expand public access to rapid tests now that PCR test eligibility has been limited, but that will depend on supply.
The federal government said Wednesday that it will distribute 140 million rapid tests across the country this month — four times the amount handed out in December.
Dr. Kieran Moore, the Ontario’s top doctor, was also scheduled to speak with the media later on Thursday amid record-breaking COVID-19 infection numbers, high hospitalization rates and widespread worker shortages due to spread of the infectious Omicron variant.
Ontario reported 2,279 patients in hospital with COVID-19 as of Thursday including 319 people in intensive care.
The numbers represent a rise from the 2,081 patients hospitalized and 288 people in ICUs on Wednesday.
Twenty new deaths were also reported in the province, while 13,339 new COVID-19 cases were reported with a caveat from Public Health Ontario warning that the actual case count is likely higher due to the current testing policy.
On Wednesday, a number of stricter health measures — including widespread business closures and a temporary return to online schooling — took effect in Ontario in a bid to reign in Omicron spread.
The province has also directed hospitals to pause non-urgent surgeries due to skyrocketing COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.