Ontario Premier says anyone who wants a COVID-19 test will be able to get one

TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that asymptomatic people can get tested for COVID-19 on Sunday, as cases continued to mount in the province and officials criticized thousands of people crowding in a Toronto park.

The premier said mass testing is the province’s best defence against the virus, and added the only way for the province to reach testing capacity is for people to go to provincial assessment centres.

People enjoy the warm weather at Mooney’s Bay Park in Ottawa, on Saturday, May 23, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

“If you are worried you have COVID-19, or that you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, even if you’re not showing symptoms, please go get a test,” Ford said during a televised speech on Sunday.

“You will not be turned away, you don’t need an appointment, just show up.”

The messaging is a marked change from earlier Ministry of Health guidelines for the general public, which said that only people displaying one or more symptoms of the novel coronavirus should be tested.

Ford also said a new detailed testing strategy targeting specific sectors will be unveiled next week.

The announcement comes as cases continue to mount in Ontario, with 460 confirmed cases reported on Sunday and 25 deaths related to the virus.

The province now has 25,500 confirmed cases, which includes 19,477 resolved cases and 2,073 deaths.

The Ministry of Health said it completed 11,383 tests yesterday, which is still well below the province’s capacity of 21,000 tests per day.

Meanwhile, the premier criticized Torontonians who flocked to a popular downtown park on Saturday.

City officials said thousands of people were at Trinity Bellwoods Park flouting physical distancing rules.

“I thought it was a rock concert in the beginning when I went out there, I was in shock,” said Ford.

“I get it, its a beautiful day out, everyone wants to get out and have a great time … but the images I saw, we just can’t have that right now, its just too many people too close.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory said more police officers and by-law officers were to be at the park Sunday to make sure the city’s message on physical distancing is known.

Toronto police said there were significantly less people at the park on Sunday.

They said there will be an increased presence from multiple units and said people would be ticketed if necessary.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2020.

Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press