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Ontario will allow symptomatic COVID-19 testing in pharmacies

In a move that’s raised many eyebrows, the Ontario government has announced plans to allow testing for symptomatic COVID-19 at some pharmacies in the province.

On Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford said that a plan is being developed to offer nasal swab PCR tests at pharmacies who choose to opt in, including through a partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart. Until now, only non-symptomatic testing for COVID-19 was available in pharmacies.

This new plan will allow Ontarians experiencing possible symptoms of COVID-19 to access testing via a participating pharmacy on top of the pre-existing access through dedicated testing centres and medical facilities.

However, the risks of bringing symptomatic testing for COVID-19 to pharmacies are immediately clear and have caused mass amounts of backlash on social media from political figures, healthcare workers, and residents alike.

Pharmacies offering symptomatic testing will create an increased risk for COVID-19 exposure, particularly given that the virus is airborne and more likely to linger and spread in poorly-ventilated enclosed spaces.

Considering the number of seniors and at-risk individuals that routinely go to the pharmacy for prescriptions and other matters, the widespread backlash comes as little surprise.

“Ontario will allow COVID testing for symptomatic people at Shoppers Drug Mart. So people with COVID symptoms, who can spread a virus that is airborne, will go to a pharmacy where there are people with weak immune systems & unvaccinated children. Insanity,” tweeted Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care physician in Ontario.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) has also publicly called on the Ontario government to put the brakes on the program.

“Sending people with COVID symptoms into pharmacies is going to cause fear and anxiety,” tweeted NDP leader Andrea Horwath. “Seniors, immunocompromised folks and parents with unvaxxed kids need to pick up prescriptions safely. I’m calling on Ford to pause this new program until the risks can be clarified.”

What do you think of the announcement? Let us know in the comments!

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