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Ontario health units working around high COVID test demand as Omicron spreads


There are signs that COVID-19 testing capacity is being stretched in Ontario as the highly contagious Omicron variant takes hold. 

Ottawa Public Health advised health workers in a memo last week that virus testing is no longer available to everyone "in a timely manner" due to a surge in demand.

As a result, public health says people who have symptoms but can’t get a test should assume they have been infected with the Omicron variant and isolate for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status. 

The rule will also apply to household contacts of the person with symptoms, the health unit said, as it’s aiming to preserve tests for essential workers and vulnerable populations. 

In Peterborough, Ont., the local public health unit is encouraging residents to report positive test results from rapid COVID-19 tests online to help track cases in the community.

Currently, people who get a positive COVID-19 result on a rapid test must confirm with a PCR test, but experts have warned that capacity may run out as Omicron spreads.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 20, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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