Ontario set to start conducting random community testing for COVID-19
From New Zealand to the U.K. to India, many places around the world have started to implement voluntary random community testing of citizens to better track the spread of COVID-19 — and Ontario will soon join them.
Though a tight global supply of test kits and resources meant that many places, including our province, severely restricted coronavirus testing to the point that not even symptomatic recent travelers could get tested, many experts are advocating for not only expanded testing, but completely random testing among populations.
This is key for research, but also for health and safety prior to opening up economies.
Ontario needs to do a mix of testing those who may be sick and random testing to find out how far the Covid virus has infected the general population.— Michael Bednarski (@mikebednarski) April 8, 2020
In some places, this has come in the form of testing for the virus with a traditional nasopharyngeal swab, while in others, it has meant administering blood tests to see who has antibodies against the virus strain, indicating previous infection — something researchers have called "a game changer" for gaining a clearer picture of the pandemic.
Within some random test pools, a large proportion of those examined were indeed found to have the virus — like in Afghanistan, where one-third of those randomly tested in Kabul tested positive.
15) Another valid concern is that it doesn't look like authorities will carry out random testing or testing people who may not have #COVID symptoms. If that’s not being done, how can we truly produce an accurate portrait of Montreal’s epidemiological curve?— Aaron Derfel (@Aaron_Derfel) May 3, 2020
Quebec officials have already hinted that they will likely start carrying out random community testing, and in his press briefing on May 4, Ontario Premier Doug Ford confirmed that it will be happening in Ontario, too.
"It's being started," he said, adding that it was not kicked off earlier due to the focus on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in the province's long-term care homes. "Moving forward, we're going to be doing that."
He has not yet provided a timeline or other details.
I’ve only been saying that for 6 weeks.— Lori (@bingslnzp) April 29, 2020
Many health officials have justly pointed out that only testing those who show up to hospitals or assessment centres feeling ill does not paint an adequate picture of the coronavirus situation in any given place, especially seeing as a good chunk of infected carriers can present with mild symptoms, or be completely asymptomatic.
Others have called randomized testing a waste of resources.
This is because people that feel no symptoms can have COVID and pass it to someone who it impacts much differently, including death. The idea of random volunteer testing is that you would find more of these asymptotic and stop clusters of people spreading the virus.— Village Idiot 🤪 (@_KANELIB_) May 1, 2020
In his presser, Ford shared the good news that Ontario's testing numbers have now surpassed all other provinces and territories — something to celebrate, given that we at one point were testing the fewest residents per capita in Canada.
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