Ontario Independent

Saturday, December 9, 2023

According to a health official in Ontario, PCR testing may soon be restricted

According to a health official, Ontario may soon have to 'limit' PCR testing

Key takeaways:

  • The province may soon have to “put some limitations” on PCR testing, according to Ontario’s top public health official.
  • During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Kieran Moore commented, as Ontarians continued to report days-long waits for PCR tests.

Ontario’s top public health official states the province may soon have to “put some limitations” on PCR testing to ensure there are enough resources on hand to respond to outbreaks and protect long-term care facilities.

Dr. Kieran Moore, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, remarked during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, as Ontarians continued to report days-long waits for PCR tests.

As lab resources have been stretched further, testing turnaround times have slowed in recent days.

“I believe we’ve recently used 44,000 of the 70,000 (available) PCR tests daily.” “We’re not yet at full capacity, but we’d like to keep some of it for outbreak management and long-term care facilities,” Moore explained. 

“We have to expect that as this virus continues to double every few days, as it wants to do, we may have to limit PCR and rapid antigen testing (RAT), and that we may have to use RAT testing for diagnostic purposes if we don’t have PCR.”

Also read: Hospitalizations and ICU visits are expected to rise in the coming weeks says Ontario doctor

Moore believes the province has already reached a point where it must save its limited supply of rapid antigen tests for use on healthcare professionals and other essential workers who may be in close contact with a positive case and would otherwise be forced to self-isolate for an extended period.

But, he added, Ontario may need to rethink how it administers PCR tests, citing concerns that those who need them won’t be able to get them promptly.

His remarks come after officials in Nova Scotia revealed that only those who are symptomatic or in close contact with a COVID-19 case and are at increased risk for severe disease or live in a congregate setting will be eligible for PCR testing.

Others in the province, including symptomatic cases at risk, will be encouraged to get a quick test.

Moore said on Tuesday, “I believe you’ll hear more from us in the coming days about how we’ll prioritize the PCR testing, which is a limited supply as well.” “70,000 people” (available tests each day). We haven’t arrived yet. However, in the coming weeks, we must consider how we will use that limited resource.”


The positivity rate in Ontario has risen from about 3% at the beginning of the month to 9.9% in the last 24 hours, according to Moore, which is a “clear signal” that we are “under testing” and that COVID-19 is spreading more widely in the community than we may realize.

However, given staffing constraints in its labs, Ontario is unlikely to significantly increase its testing capacity.

CEO of the Medical Laboratory Professionals’ Association of Ontario, Michelle Hoad, told CP24 earlier in the day that the pace of PCR testing in Ontario is already “unsustainable” due to staffing issues in the sector, which the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated.

According to a health official, Ontario may soon have to 'limit' PCR testing
According to a health official, Ontario may soon have to ‘limit’ PCR testing. Image from CTV News

“I believe the highest number of tests we processed was around 76,000 in January of last year.” “We’ve surpassed the 51,000 mark,” she announced. 

“At the time, we had a workforce that had been exposed to the pandemic for about a year, and now we’ve been exposed for two years, and everyone is pretty exhausted.” As a result, there’s a large surge that’s difficult to manage right now.”

In addition to potential testing changes, public health units will have to prioritize the “highest risk settings” regarding the case and contact management, according to Moore.

As a result, individuals will be more likely to be expected to notify their contacts if they test positive for COVID-19.

According to him, provincial civil servants will also be tasked with calling those who test positive and instructing them on how to notify their contacts.

“By providing case and contact management to the highest risk settings, we can continue to focus on and protect the most vulnerable,” he said.

Source: CP24 News

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