POLITICS
04/08/2020 16:01 EDT

Angry Doug Ford Demands More COVID-19 Testing

The premier said it’s “unacceptable” that Ontario is running about 3,000 coronavirus tests per day.

Premier Doug Ford lost his composure Wednesday over Ontario’s lack of widespread testing for COVID-19.

“What is unacceptable, absolutely unacceptable, is the number of testing we’re doing,” Ford said at his now-daily press conference in Toronto. 

“I may not understand health, but ... what I understand are numbers. And we also understand countries that have tested and ramped up testing have shown results.”

Ontario’s labs are processing about 3,000 COVID-19 tests per day even though they have the capacity to process 13,000 a day, the premier said.

My patience has run thin.Premier Doug Ford

He said he’s taken the problem up with his COVID-19 command table, which is leading the province’s response to the pandemic, and the CEO of Ontario Health.

“My patience has run thin ... We say we can do 13,000 a day. Then we need to start doing 13,000 every single day.” 

He said he expects all front-line health-care workers, first responders as well as staff and residents at long-term care facilities and seniors’ homes to be tested. 

“The days are done of this two and three thousand being tested.”

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China in late 2019, has devastated some Ontario long-term care homes. Twenty-eight deaths have been linked to one nursing home in Bobcaygeon, Ont. alone. And there are 35 other outbreaks in long-term care homes.

Ontario has dozens of assessment centres doing testing across the province. But many of them only test people who have symptoms and are at high risk to transmit the disease to others. That means that health-care workers, first responders and people who live in facilities are being tested for COVID-19, while the rest of the population is told to call their doctor or Telehealth Ontario.

One doctor told the Canadian Press it’s aggravating to turn people away and to know that current testing isn’t showing a complete picture.

“Ontario in my opinion is making decisions in the dark and making decisions based upon what they don’t know,” said Dr. Camille Lemieux, who is leading an assessment centre in downtown Toronto.

Ontario in my opinion is making decisions in the dark.Dr. Camille Lemieux

“We occasionally get people walking in because of course, we’re a storefront, and those people are unfortunately frequently told ‘No, we will not test you,’ despite having symptoms or a high suspicion on our part that they’re COVID positive,” she said.

“I can’t describe to you the level of frustration that puts on those of us who are working and really want to be testing more broadly.”

Ford said Wednesday that there was a lag in testing because there weren’t enough assessment centres at first, and then there was a shortage of a chemical called reagent that is needed to process the kits.

“I’m done with that,” he said. “We have everything we need. No more excuses.”

With files from Sherina Harris and The Canadian Press