'Cruel public health policy for the holidays': Ontario's decision to allow pharmacy COVID-19 testing for symptomatic individuals sparks backlash

·4 min read

On Tuesday it was reported that Ontario pharmacies would soon be able to conduct COVID-19 testing for symptomatic individuals in the province, but the change is being met with questions, including some pushback from health experts.

To date, COVID-19 testing could only be done at pharmacies for individuals who are not symptomatic, have not been in contact with someone known to have COVID-19 within the past 14 days and have not been advised to quarantine in the last 14 days.

When asked about this change on Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province is "going to have the protocols in place" to make this change safe.

"We're going to be very cautious," Ford said, adding that all the public health units in the province will have the "flexibility" to make their own decisions.

"We still have a masking policy, they're going to have dedicated lines going into the pharmacy, but we're going to throw everything we can at it."

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath issued a statement in response to the provincial government moving to allow pharmacies to test symptomatic individuals for COVID-19, calling on Ford to pause this new program.

"Pharmacies need to be safe for seniors, immunocompromised people and parents with unvaccinated little ones, who all need and deserve to get their prescriptions without extra fear of being exposed to COVID," the statement reads. "Sending symptomatic people that we suspect have COVID into that setting is going to cause fear and anxiety, and we can only hope it doesn’t result in vulnerable people getting COVID."

Others in Ontario, including health experts, have raised questions about the ramifications of this change in the province's COVID-19 testing strategy.

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