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Ontario announces rapid testing for schools in areas with high COVID-19 transmission

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Oct 5th, 2021

Ontario is rolling out a rapid COVID-19 testing program for schools in areas of the province with high transmission.

Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday rapid tests will be made available as determined by local medical officers of health. Parents will be able to choose if their children participate in the screening.

“This will help identify and prevent transmission in schools and licensed child-care settings, as identified by local medical officers of health based on local epidemiological circumstances,” the province said.

The rapid tests will be used only for unvaccinated students with no symptoms who are not high-risk contacts of a case.

If a child receives a positive result, they will still need to get a lab-based PCR test to confirm.

“Routine rapid antigen screening of fully vaccinated individuals and children is not currently recommended given the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines as well as the risks posed to the disruption of learning as a result of false positives,” Moore said in a release.

The announcement comes after groups of parents had organized surveillance testing for their schools using the rapid test kits, but the government told agencies to stop distributing them to anyone but businesses.

Below is the procedure and criteria for the COVID-19 rapid antigen screening for child-care and school age children (as provided by the province):

  • Based on the guidance of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, local Medical Officers of Health will continue to monitor local COVID-19 transmission and vaccination rates to identify when to implement rapid antigen screening in parts of their region based on local factors and needs.
  • Rapid antigen screening will be used only for unvaccinated asymptomatic students and children who are not high-risk contacts. Symptomatic or high-risk contacts should continue to access lab-based PCR testing available at assessment centres and other collection centres.
  • Where the local public health unit has identified schools or child care centres that would benefit from this screening, rapid antigen screening tests will be made available. Parents will be able to choose if their unvaccinated asymptomatic children will participate in this screening offered by their schools or licensed child care settings.
  • Unvaccinated children participating in the program will be able to conduct the rapid antigen screening at home with instructions.
  • Children who receive a positive result will be required to seek a confirmatory lab-based PCR test at a local assessment centre or specimen collection centre and isolate until the result of that lab-based PCR test is known. Children who receive a negative result on a rapid antigen screening test will be able to continue in-person learning. More detailed information including duration and frequency will follow.

 

More to come

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