Ontario expands access to asymptomatic testing for children and staff at schools over April break

TORONTO — The Ontario government is expanding access to asymptomatic testing for school-aged children and staff over the coming April break.

Students were previously only able to access asymptomatic testing as a result of being identified as a close contact of a case during COVID-19 outbreak or as part of a wider periodic surveillance testing program in targeted schools.

But the Ford government has announced that all students and school staff will be able to access asymptomatic testing at Ontario’s 180 assessment centres for the week of April 12-18.

They say that students and staff without symptoms can also get tested for COVID-19 at participating pharmacies.

The expansion of asymptomatic testing is part of a wider effort to ensure that schools do not experience a spike in transmission following the break.

The Ford government says that parents will also be receiving a letter “promoting best practices for a safe April break” and there will be ‘refresher training” on infection prevention and control measures when students in most regions return to the classroom on April 19.

They also say that teachers will be encouraged to offer “outdoor instruction when possible” this spring and there will be “on-site confirmation of self-screening.”

“Nothing is more important than keeping Ontario’s schools safe and open for students, staff and their families,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a press release issued Thursday morning.

“That’s why we are introducing additional health and safety measures to protect against COVID-19 while working hard to get our education workers vaccinated. Our students deserve a safe return to their classrooms on April 19 so that they can keep learning, and we are committed to delivering on that.”

The Ford government has insisted that schools are safe and will not order their closure as it did during the last stay-at-home order in January.

But some medical officers of health have taken matters into their own hands and ordered the closure of schools in their communities, including those in Toronto, Peel Region and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.

The co-chair of Ontario’s science table has also expressed some concern about the potential for schools to accelerate spread of the virus, telling reporters last week that “schools really reflect the level of infection in the community and once infection takes off in the community the schools amplify it.”

There have been 14,478 school-related cases of COVID-19 reported since the beginning of the pandemic.

About 26 per cent of schools currently have at least one active case.

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