Ontario is expanding access to asymptomatic COVID-19 testing and beefing up symptom screening at schools to reduce virus transmission among students and staff.
Ontarians can now get a COVID-19 test at local pharmacies and testing centres even if they don’t have symptoms. Before, showing symptoms or exposure to a known case was a requirement to get a test.
Screening for symptoms at schools will also be strengthened, and students will now have to tell a person face-to-face about their symptoms and recent travel history.
A letter will also be sent home to parents and schools will be cleaned over April break.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce made the announcement Wednesday afternoon, where he maintained that schools were safe for students.
“Nothing is more important than keeping Ontario’s schools safe and open for students, staff and their families,” he said in a news release afterwards.
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Across Ontario, 301 school-related cases were reported Thursday, and they account for about 10% of the 3,295 total cases discovered in the last 24 hours.
Toronto and Peel have both temporarily closed their schools due to surging COVID-19 cases.
Lecce said schools will not be implementing COVID-19 testing during school hours, and families should instead seek testing at local pharmacies or testing centres on their own time. He encouraged all families to get their kids tested before they go back to class after spring break.
The province is working to vaccinate teachers along with other essential workers in Phase 2 of its immunization strategy, which began this week.
Teachers who work at schools in high-risk postal codes in Toronto and Peel will be eligible to book a vaccine appointment starting next week. So will educators who work with children with special needs.
Vaccine appointment slots will open up for school staff in other neighbourhoods as supply permits.