ontario covid test

People in Toronto are finding it impossible to book a PCR COVID test

Ontario has officially entered into yet another edition of the Hunger Games when it comes to securing a COVID-19 booster shot or a take home rapid testing kit, and apparently, securing an appointment for a proper PCR test for the virus is no exception to the chaos.

With new case counts in Ontario creeping well over 3,000 for five consecutive days and even surpassing 4,000 on Saturday — the highest figure we've seen since late April — residents are scrambling to get tested before the holidays, especially with potential exposures now rampant.

The province has long advised those with any symptoms of the virus, those who have recently been in close contact with someone with a confirmed infection, and/or those working and living in certain settings to access a free PCR test at a designated assessment centre.

Select pharmacies also just began providing symptomatic testing a few weeks ago.

But, amid Omicron-induced frenzy as the variant makes its rounds, nabbing a slot has proven essentially impossible, especially in big cities like Toronto.

Hospitals like Toronto Western and Women's College only book two days in advance, and while spots are open up in their online systems at a specific time (8 a.m. and midnight for the following day, respectively), they continue to be swiped up exceptionally fast.

While there were many same-day or next-day appointments available somewhere like Toronto Western for anyone looking to book just one month ago, the portal is now consistently showing a completely full schedule with no bookings available.

One's only hope is to be on the page with speedy fingers as soon as the next day's slots open, or periodically refresh the page in case a cancellation pops up.

At the time of publication, neither hospital's assessment centre had any availabilities, with Women's College noting on their website that "We are experiencing high volumes. New appointments are added at 12 a.m. daily but may fill quickly. Our team is currently looking into increasing capacity and more updates will be provided on our website."

St. Joseph's, which schedules three days at a time, was likewise all full for Dec. 21-23, as was the portal for Michael Garron Hospital, for which appointments become available at 10 p.m. daily for the following day.

MGH has also issued a PSA to say that "Due to high volumes, we are currently experiencing longer than normal wait times at all of our sites."

Some independent pharmacies on the province's list of COVID-19 testing locations are adding people to waitlists for when more appointments are available, while participating Shoppers Drug Mart locations are accepting online applications for PCR tests, after which patients have to wait to be contacted by a pharmacy team member to actually book.

A number of outlets are now listing PCR testing as "not available" or showing "no times in December." Others, you have to call or email for a spot, but it is reasonable to expect that the situation is very much the same.

Two pharmacies in Toronto, Metro Drugs at 129 Dundas Street East and at 844 Bathurst Street, presently have some slots, but nothing before Dec. 28, which is one week away.

Those who are asymptomatic and have no confirmed contacts, and who are willing to pay for a private test, are likely to have better luck amid the race. At somewhere like Shoppers, the charge is $150 plus tax.

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