Select pharmacies offer COVID-19 tests, including one in Huntsville, with limitations
BARRIE, ONT. -- Select Ontario pharmacies started offering COVID-19 tests Friday morning to help ease the burden on overwhelmed assessment centres.
The Shoppers Drug Mart on King William Street in Huntsville is currently the only pharmacy in Simcoe Muskoka offering the test.
To take a COVID test at a pharmacy, you must have an appointment booked.
The launch of pharmacy screening came a day after the provincial government changed its guidelines around who could get a test.
Premier Doug Ford had previously said anyone who wanted a test could get one but announced Thursday that those without symptoms should stay away from the testing sites, with some exceptions.
That means some asymptomatic people who want reassurance they don't have the virus would not have access to testing offered by the province.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said Friday the eligibility requirements around pharmacy testing were to ensure priority groups could have quick access to tests.
"I know there has been some confusion," she said. "We want to make sure that people who absolutely need to be tested, who are asymptomatic, can go quickly to receive their test."
Asymptomatic individuals, such as those with loved ones in long-term care homes, close contacts of a known case or high-risk workers, can get tested, along with anyone who plans to travel soon.
Muskoka residents Kimberley and Grant Gerhart booked their appointment after hearing the Huntsville pharmacy offer the tests.
The couple said they have been in self-isolation and waiting for months to be tested after a friend came into contact with a positive case.
"As soon as I heard this, I thought I'm getting on that train right away," Grant said.
The Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy in Huntsville requests that anyone wanting a test book an appointment well in advance to be pre-screened.
Sixty locations across the province were approved to offer the COVID-19 test, but the Ontario government said more locations would soon be added to offer testing with online booking. No timeline was given for when that might happen.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV's Mike Arsalides