London

London, Ont., mayor calls on province to expand COVID-19 testing to more local pharmacies

A day after the entire southwest region was left off a list of municipalities that would allow COVID-19 testing in pharmacies, London Mayor Ed Holder is asking for an "urgent expansion" of the tests into local drug stores. 

The province released a list of pharmacies that will start testing Friday, but this region was left out

A healthcare worker speaks to someone looking for a COVID-19 test through their car window outside the assessment centre at the Oakridge Arena. (Colin Butler/CBC)

A day after the entire southwest region was left off a list of municipalities that would allow COVID-19 testing in pharmacies, London Mayor Ed Holder is asking for an "urgent expansion" of the tests into local drug stores. 

The mayor made the request during a phone call with Ontario Premier Doug Ford's office on Thursday morning. 

Wednesday's provincial announcement included 60 pharmacies. All were in Ottawa and the Greater Toronto Area except for one, in Huntsville, where the announcement was made. At the time, Ford said that "the world doesn't revolve around Toronto" but that he needed to expand the testing sites in places considered "hot spots." 

"While the majority of new cases in recent weeks have been occurring in Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa, I want to make sure the premier's office understands the dire need for expanded testing here in London and the immediate surrounding area," Holder said in a statement.

"Londoners simply need more options. Our two primary assessment centres, at Oakridge and Carling Heights, are regularly at capacity within a few hours of opening, and satellite testing facilities on campus at Fanshawe and Western are extremely limited."

Other municipalities with busy testing centres were also left out of the provincial announcement. In Kitchener, the assessment centre had to be overhauled after demand surged and the centre had to be closed before it even opened on Wednesday. 

In London, both testing centres reached capacity before noon on Thursday. 

Testing record expected

CBC News reached out to the premier's office and the Ministry of Health Wednesday asking why London and the rest of southwest Ontario were left off the list of pharmacies, but did not hear back. 

In his daily COVID-19 update Thursday, Ford said he will roll out more pharmacies "as quickly as possible, possibly "in the next couple of days." 

Jacob Brown was unable to find the testing centre's walk-up line, so he took a spot in the line of cars. (Kate Dubinski / CBC)

Between Sept. 12 and Sept. 24, London-Middlesex recorded 83 new cases of COVID-19, compared with just 14 cases over the same period between Aug. 30 and Sept. 11.

London's two assessment centres have seen massive lines and hours-long waits since school began and post-secondary students came to London at the beginning of September. 

"Given the recent surge in cases locally, along with students of all ages heading back to school, Londoners are understandably concerned. Providing pharmacies in our city with the necessary resources to conduct COVID-19 tests would go a long way toward reducing extreme wait times at our existing assessment centres," Holder said.

"We have had great cooperation with our provincial counterparts since the onset of this pandemic, and I am hopeful the premier will act swiftly on this urgent request."

The mayor's office expects London-Middlesex to exceed its one-week testing record by the end of Sunday, the statement said. 

The previous record, set last week, saw nearly 4,700 people tested. 

More to come

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now