Ontario can now process 50,000 coronavirus tests daily: health officials

Oct 23 2020, 11:04 am

Ontario’s top health officials say labs are now able to process 50,000 COVID-19 tests a day, but some obstacles remain.

On Friday, the health officials said one of the issues is getting the samples to where they need to go quickly.

Ontario Health CEO Matt Anderson said that if the network can’t physically transport enough samples between assessment centres, pharmacies and pop-up mobile testing, then lab capacity doesn’t matter.

“All of these elements – specimen collection, transportation of samples and test capacity – all have to be brought online all at once,” he said.

Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliot said they wanted 50,000 tests process by mid-October to help with the backlog of testing, which is why the province had to end walk-in testing at assessment centres.

They also narrowed down the requirement for people to get tested. Now only close contacts of identified cases and symptomatic people can go to the assessment centres.

However, Anderson said increasing capacity is still a challenge, as “almost every jurisdiction is trying to get capacity up,” as many jurisdictions want the nasal PCR test, which is a long cotton swab and chemical reagent.

Right now, the biggest limit to help Ontario with testing is the world’s need for different testing methods and resources.

While Public Health Ontario’s head of microbiology, Dr. Vanessa Allen, said that nearly 80% of all test results reach subjects within 48 hours, Anderson said that an undisclosed amount of out-of-province testing is helping them increase output.

He said Ontario will have to rely on some out-of-province testing assistance until turnaround times improve more than the current rate.