Ontario’s Ministry of Education says it will no longer be collecting and reporting data on COVID-19 case numbers from students and staff at schools across the province.
Previously, the education ministry would compile data that included weekday case counts from local school boards.
However, on Thursday, Ontario announced sweeping changes to eligibility for PCR testing, restricting the resource for use in the health-care system, long-term care another other high-risk congregate settings.
The Ministry of Education told Global News that no sector, including the education sector, will have accurate data to report COVID-19 cases in school and child-care settings due to changes for testing availability.
In a memo sent to school boards across Ontario, the Ministry of Education said effective January take-home PCR self-collection kits that have been made widely available to schools regardless of symptoms, are now to be provided to students and staff who are symptomatic only.
“The continued and modified use of PCR self-collection kits for schools is part of the government’s efforts to reduce absenteeism for students and staff that receive a negative test result,” the memo read.
When it comes to access to rapid antigen tests, which were previously made available to students, the memo said supply is pending and the ministry of education is working closely with other sectors of the government to expand the access to that testing.
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Despite a scale-back of reporting case counts, the ministry did say that information around school and child-care centre closures would be available.
The memo also asked schools and licensed child-care centres to continue submitting when a child, staff, student, etc. who is normally at school or at child-care centre has a confirmed positive case of COVID-19.
The Toronto District School Board said it is reviewing how reporting and notification may happen moving forward when it comes to COVID-19 in its schools.
Students and staff at publicly-funded schools in Ontario are set to return to in-person learning following the winter holiday break beginning Wednesday, Jan. 5, after a delay of two days.
No delay has been announced for schools originally scheduled to return on Jan. 10.
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