OTTAWA -- As long lines form daily at Ottawa's COVID-19 testing facilities, the Ontario Government is updating the guidelines for people to be tested for COVID-19.

Starting today, you can be tested for COVID-19 if you're showing symptoms of COVID-19, work or live in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak or have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus.

People with no symptoms of COVID-19 are being told not to go to COVID-19 assessment centres for testing.

In a statement, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe announced that recommended testing guidelines have been updated "to prioritize those who are at the greatest risk, while shifting away from untargeted asymptomatic testing."

Effective immediately, Ontarians should only seek testing at COVID-19 assessment centres and COVID-19 care clinics if you are:

  • Showing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by your public health unit or exposure notification through the COVID Alert App
  • A resident or worker in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by your local public health unit; and
  • Eligible for testing as part of a targeted testing initiative directed by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Long-Term Care

Starting Friday, testing for COVID-19 will be available at 13 Ottawa pharmacies if you are not showing symptoms.

Dr. Yaffe told reporters that Ontario is taking a "more targeted approach" to testing.

"Your average person out there who is not exposed to a case, it's not part of an outbreak, has no symptoms, should not be going for testing," said Dr. Yaffe. 

Last week, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches announced Ottawa Public Health recommended people get tested for COVID-19 if:

  • You are showing new symptoms of COVID-19
  • You have been instructed by Ottawa Public Health to seek testing

Residents started lining up for COVID-19 testing at the COVID-19 Care Clinic on Moodie Drive at 3 a.m. on Thursday. The clinic was at capacity by the time it opened at 9 a.m.

Speaking on CTV Morning Live Thursday morning, Dr. Etches said testing in pharmacies should help alleviate capacity at clinics as demand for testing increases.

"We did expect that there would be more children with symptoms of respiratory illness in the fall and that would be an important population to make sure they have access to testing," said Dr. Etches.

"We do need to use our testing capacity wisely, so I'm very pleased to see that if people don't symptoms and they haven't been referred by public health, they will now have another option. So they can go to a pharmacy, and that should take some pressure off the system."