Details of the plan were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, and Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Mandatory Testing of Travelers: To address the risks associated with variants of concern to the health of Ontarians, the Chief Medical Officer of Health is issuing a Section 22 order under Section 77.1 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, mandating on-arrival testing for international travellers at Toronto Pearson International Airport effective at 12:01 p.m. on February 1, 2021 and exploring additional testing measures at Pearson International Airport and land border crossings in the coming weeks.
Enhanced Screening and Sequencing: Led by Public Health Ontario, the provincial diagnostic lab network is ramping up capacity to screen all positive COVID-19 tests in Ontario for known variants within two to three days of initial processing. This new measure will take effect as of February 3, 2021. Public Health Ontario (PHO) will also undertake and coordinate genomic sequencing efforts to identify new and emerging variants by sequencing up to 10 per cent of all positive tests by February 17, 2021.
Maintain Public Health Measures: Given the emerging evidence that the variants of concern are more transmissible and may cause more severe disease in some individuals, lifting of public health and workplace safety measures will not be considered at this time until more information on variant spread is known and overall trends in public health indicators improve. The declared provincial emergency and stay-at-home order were recently extended until February 9, 2021.
Strengthen Case and Contact Management: The provincial workforce will continue supporting public health units to ensure cases and contacts are reached as soon as possible and monitored through their quarantine period. All asymptomatic contacts will be asked to repeat testing on or after day 10 of their quarantine, and the entire household of all contacts and symptomatic individuals will be asked to stay home until the contact has a negative test.
Enhancing Protections for Vulnerable Populations: Dependent on supply from the federal government, the province will continue with the accelerated vaccination of residents in long-term care, high-risk retirement and First Nations elder care homes. The province is also introducing a provincial antigen screening program for the expansion of rapid testing in high priority settings, such as long-term care homes, retirement homes, essential workplaces, schools and congregate living settings.
Leveraging Data: The province will work with a made-in-Ontario technology company DNAstack to immediately establish a genomics databank and real-time analytics dashboard to empower the province’s public health officials and improve the government’s planning related to pandemic response. This will enhance the province’s capacity to identify known and emerging variants of COVID-19.
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