Ontario has scrapped its mandatory five-day isolation rule for people who test positive for COVID-19 as part of an “all respiratory virus approach” to an expected rise in general illnesses in the fall.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health, said Wednesday that individuals who feel ill should isolate themselves while symptomatic and return to work or school 24 hours after their symptoms come to an end.
Moore said masks should be worn for about 10 days after a person completes their voluntary period of isolation, but it will not be mandatory to do so.
“Normally, we’ll see the respiratory virus season start around the end of September and hence this advice is being put in play to guide that risk,” Moore told reporters at a news conference announcing the expansion of COVID-19 boosters for young children.
“So this is an all respiratory virus approach because the complexity will be increasing this year, given that other respiratory viruses will be circulating in our schools and workplaces.”
Moore said yes with “additional precautions” when asked if people who test positive on a fast or PCR test but are no longer symptomatic can go out in public.
“The caveat is that we also want to maintain high levels of protection through ongoing, keeping up to date with all of our vaccinations, but in particular keeping up to date with the COVID-19 vaccination,” he said.
As per CBC, Moore stated that the advice being provided on Wednesday is intended for the general public and that further guidelines may be made available for workplaces that are more at risk, including long-term care facilities.
It is advised that sick people avoid going to these kinds of vulnerable settings.
However, it doesn’t seem like schools are on the list of vulnerable settings being taken into account for additional COVID-19 recommendations. According to Moore, better ventilation and cleaning practices within those institutions will help stop the virus from spreading.
He advised wearing masks continuously for 10 full days if you were sick, and that this precaution in addition to the other measures “should decrease the risk of all respiratory viruses in our communities.”
Moore said the Ontario government has taken a cautious approach to change the guidelines, citing other provinces that have already adopted “a generic approach to all respiratory viruses,” such as Nova Scotia and British Columbia.
“We wanted to get further along in the seventh wave before we put this in place and also had it available to schools to ensure we can dampen down the effect of all respiratory viruses in the classroom and also in the workplace.”
The last time isolation policies in Ontario were changed was at the end of December 2021, when Moore reduced the necessary isolation duration for vaccinated individuals from 10 days to five.
The new rule is currently in effect and is applicable to everyone, regardless of vaccination status.
While Moore is encouraging sick people to stay home when they are not feeling well, Ontarians are only covered for three paid sick days under the temporary pandemic program.
The Doug Ford government has not yet stated if it intends to make this program permanent.
The program is set to expire in March 2023.