London to open COVID-19 testing centre by next week

The Middlesex-London Health Unit will open a separate testing centre for COVID-19 by the early-to-mid next week, while Western University cancels classes.

Associate medical officer of health says there's no reason for mass closures in London yet

The COVID-19 assessment sites in Nova Scotia can test up to 200 people a day. London is setting up a site by next week. (Nova Scotia Health Authority)

The Middlesex-London Health Unit will open a separate testing centre for COVID-19 by the early-to-mid next week.

"We have been preparing for what it would look like if we had a local outbreak. Our teams are ready to identify, isolate and follow up with people who are at risk of the coronavirus," said Dr. Alex Summers, the health unit's associate medical officer of health. 

"We will be implementing the development of an assessment centre. My hope is by early- to mid-next week, we will have confirmed a location." 

The assessment centres are being set up across the province, starting in Toronto, and would give quick testing to divert the burden of the testing away from emergency rooms. 

Hospitals in Ontario are consistently over capacity, including here in London, but Summers said he is confident in the health care system. 

Check before you travel

"We're not saying to people, 'Don't travel,' we're saying, 'Be mindful of where you're going and be mindful that when you return and develop symptoms of a respiratory illness, you need to stay at home regardless of where you've been,'" Summers said. 

March Break is next week, and many people are travelling. People should check the Public Health Agency of Canada website, which gives constantly changing guidelines about the latest travel advisories. 

"For those staying close to home, we're also advising people who are operating public gathering places about steps they can take, from environmental cleaning to hand hygiene," Summers said.

"The basics are absolutely critical. Routine hand washing, staying home when you're sick, coughing into your sleeve, not touching your face as well as you can, those are the core components, as boring as they sound, to stopping COVID-19." 

Gatherings, classes cancelled

Western University cancelled classes starting Friday, joining other post-secondary institutions in Canada and the United States. Elementary and high schools are also closed for three weeks, an additional two week period following March Break. 

"If we had a confirmed case of coronavirus, we'd be able to track down the people they have come in touch with to reduce the spread in the community," Summers said.

"We want to be prepared and I am confident. We have the knowledge and skills to quickly identify this virus."