Elementary and secondary school children will be asked to take home five COVID-19 tests over their winter break to prevent a post-holiday spike in cases.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Ontario, aware of the kind of transmission that occurred during last year’s Christmas and holiday break, purchased 11 million rapid antigen tests to distribute to schools.
“So out of an abundance of caution, to ensure children return to school in January, and also to reduce any anxiety for parents … we thought it would be prudent to provide five rapid tests kits to all children in Ontario,” Lecce said Thursday.
Ontario also began expanding its COVID-19 testing strategies by adding hundreds of pharmacies — 600 rising to 1,300.
In a controversial move, pharmacies can now opt to offer testing to individuals who are showing symptoms of the illness or have had close contact with a confirmed case.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called on the program to be paused over concerns that seniors, immunocompromised people and parents with unvaccinated young children could be exposed.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said he is confident that the protocols are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside pharmacies.
The enhanced testing plan will help the province weather the return to indoor living through the winter, he said.