COVID-19: Ontario Develops 6 -Point Variant Response Plan

This afternoon, the Ontario Government introduced a 6-point plan to address the risk associated with highly infectious variants of the COVID-19 virus.   This plan comes as the public health officials warn of significant risk of spread of these variants and associated increase in not only case numbers but also the severity of illness.

The six elements of Ontario’s Varriant Response plan include the following:

  1. Mandatory Testing of Travelers:  Mandating on-arrival testing for international travelers at Toronto Pearson International Airport effective at 12:01 p.m. on February 1, 2021 and exploring additional testing measures at Pearson International Airport and land border crossings in the coming weeks.
  2. Enhanced Screening and Sequencing: Ramping up capacity to screen all positive COVID-19 tests in Ontario for known variants within two to three days of initial processing. This new measure will take effect as of February 3, 2021. Public Health Ontario (PHO) will also undertake and coordinate genomic sequencing efforts to identify new and emerging variants by sequencing up to 10 per cent of all positive tests by February 17, 2021.
  3. Maintain Public Health Measures: Lifting of public health and workplace safety measures will not be considered “at this time until more information on variant spread is known and overall trends in public health indicators improve.” The declared provincial emergency and stay-at-home order were recently extended until February 9, 2021.  No information has been provided about whether these will be extended beyond that date but all indications are that this is likely.
  4. Strengthen Case and Contact Management: Continued support for public health units to ensure cases and contacts are reached as soon as possible and monitored through their quarantine period. All asymptomatic contacts will be asked to repeat testing on or after day 10 of their quarantine, and the entire household of all contacts and symptomatic individuals will be asked to stay home until the contact has a negative test.
  5. Enhancing Protections for Vulnerable Populations: Dependent on supply from the federal government, the province will continue with the accelerated vaccination of residents in long-term care, high-risk retirement, and First Nations elder care homes. The province is also introducing a provincial antigen screening program for the expansion of rapid testing in high priority settings, such as long-term care homes, retirement homes, essential workplaces, schools and congregate living settings.
  6. Leveraging Data: In conjunction with DNAstack establish a genomics databank and real-time analytics dashboard to enhance the province’s capacity to identify known and emerging variants of COVID-19.

You can read more about these controls here.

As always, PooranLaw will continue to monitor developments related to COVID-19 and provide updates on our website. In the meantime, if you require legal assistance, we encourage you to reach out to your regular PooranLaw lawyer, or any member of our team.

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