Employers who continue to need workers to test negative for COVID-19 in order to return to work after an illness should do so “immediately,” according to Peel’s senior public health official.
Due to the greater transmissibility of the Omicron variant, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh said during a briefing at Mississauga City Hall on Thursday that the focus should be “less on preventing infections alone and more on preventing severe outcomes.”
“I understand that certain employers in our community are requiring proof of negative tests following illness in order for employees to return to work. This practice should stop immediately. To be clear if your symptoms have resolved and your isolation period is over no test is needed to return to work,” he said. “I urge employers to revise their testing policies to eliminate a focus on negative tests for return to work. If anything, you should be looking at vaccination policies rather than exclusions on the basis of test results.”
Ontario currently recommends that anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 isolate for a period of five to 10 days, depending on their age and vaccination status.
Loh said that should be the policy for most workplaces too, with the exception of a handful of high-risk settings where workers remain eligible for free PCR testing, including health-care and long-term care.
Contact tracing is now only done in the “highest risk situations,” according to him, and workplaces are no longer obligated to report incidents to Peel Public Health.
“You don’t need a test to confirm a COVID-19 diagnosis,” he stated. “If you or anyone else is unwell, stay at home and check your symptoms against the provincial screening tool, then follow the instructions on how long and who should self-isolate.” A negative test is not required to establish the end of your isolation once your self-isolation period has elapsed and your symptoms have resolved.”