The Ontario government is opening up six novel coronavirus testing centres just one day after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
The coronavirus assessment centres are part of the ongoing provincial plan to handle cases of the virus as they show up in Ontario.
The government said the centres will be opened near hospitals located in Brampton, Ottawa, North York, Scarborough, York and Peel regions.
Christine Elliott, the province’s Minister Health, said these facilities are intended for people who feel they have signs of the virus and want to get tested.
Elliott added that the focus of the centres will be on helping hospitals reduce overcrowding.
“It’s really meant to take the pressure off the hospital emergency departments and to keep the people who may have COVID-19 separate from the general hospital population because you don’t want it to be spreading there,” Elliott said.
She said that more are expected to be set up in Ontario by next week.
The provincial coronavirus plan comes as part of a $100-million contingency fund that was announced by the Ontario government on Wednesday.
Part of that Wednesday Ontario government announcement was protection for long care facilities in the province as well as upping the screening of care workers, families and residents.
The provincial plan will also look at expanding lab test capacity to increase the monitoring and coordination of coronavirus testing being conducted by Public Health Ontario.
The provincial government also announced the launch of an education campaign to provide the public with information to help keep themselves and others safe.
At a news conference, Premier Doug Ford said that Canadians will need to come together to deal with the virus.
“It is important for every Canadian to come together and support one another. By working together we will get through this,” he said.
Premier Ford was expected to meet with the other provincial leaders along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as part of the First Ministers Meeting on Thursday.
That meeting was to be focused on the issues affecting the provinces and on discussing the planned $1-billion coronavirus response fund that was announced by the federal government on Wednesday.
However, that meeting has been postponed because of news that the prime minister’s wife has coronavirus-like symptoms and Trudeau has decided to enter self-quarantine.
Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau first started to show signs of the virus on Wednesday after returning from a business trip to the U.K.
Toronto enters emergency stages in response of COVID-19
The enhanced plan being put forth by the provincial government comes as the City of Toronto announces that it will be entering the next stage of its emergency operations to deal with COVID-19.
Toronto said it is monitoring the situation through a COVID-19 task force that will determine future operational planning and response to the global pandemic.
The task force will consist of key managers from all of Toronto’s divisions and agencies and will be managed by Fire Chief Matthew Pegg.
“We are making sure all City departments and services and all City agencies are working together to respond to this pandemic and to protect the health of Toronto residents,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory.
The new task force duties will include:
- Global supply chain challenges for personal protective equipment, like masks and gloves for front line workers and first responders
- The potential for increased staff absenteeism due to illness and the impact on the City’s ability to deliver core services
- Actions undertaken to protect vulnerable populations, such as those experiencing homelessness or in City-run long-term care homes
- Developing, sharing and continually updating critical information for residents and visitors to the city
- Forecasting and responding to economic impacts the pandemic may have on residents and businesses.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said the city is carefully monitoring the situation and is advising that it is up to Canadians to reduce the spread of the virus.
Dr. de Villa also recommending to anyone who has recently travelled abroad to China, Italy, Iran or the US to take extra precautions and to self-isolate themselves for 14 days to reduce the chance of spreading the virus.
Dr. de Villa also advising anyone who has travelled abroad to stay away from any social gathering or events and to limit contact with the elderly or those with chronic illnesses.
“We all have a role to play in managing this situation and delaying community spread as long as possible,” Dr. de Villa said. “This is why I continue to remind Toronto residents to practice vigilant hand washing and other preventive measures as these are important ways for you to do your part in delaying the onset of community spread of COVID-19.”
Cases of COVID-19 are now over 125,000 worldwide. In Canada, there are over 130 confirmed cases, and over 50 infected in Ontario.