O'Toole, family get COVID-19 tests in Gatineau after striking out in Ottawa
OTTAWA -- Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and his family were tested for COVID-19 on Thursday, heading across the provincial border to Gatineau, Que. to be tested after being turned away from an at-capacity Ottawa facility.
O’Toole and his family went into self-isolation on Wednesday, as have his employees, after a member of his staff who he was recently travelling with tested positive for the virus.
In a statement the party said that on Wednesday, after “waiting for hours in line the O’Toole family was turned away because the centre had reached capacity.” Further contact with Ottawa Public Health determined the earliest they could get a test in the city would be Friday, so early Thursday morning the family went across the Ottawa River to access the public health service.
“The House of Commons makes testing available for MPs and their families in Gatineau and were able to accommodate the O’Toole family this morning,” said the party in the statement.
O’Toole and his family are continuing to self-isolate as they await their test results, and the party has contacted people that met with O’Toole in recent days.
The new Conservative leader is now taking aim at the Liberal government’s handling of what’s quickly become a problem in many cities: over-capacity testing facilities resulting in many people waiting days at home before being able to get a COVID-19 test.
On Thursday, the Ontario government announced it will soon be funding the addition of three pop-up testing centres in Ottawa.
“Children are being sent home from school to get tested, and it is hard for moms and dads to keep them calm. The test itself is unpleasant for an adult, but it’s worse as a parent to watch your young child take the test,” O’Toole said, going on to criticize the federal government for not yet approving other testing methods, which is under the responsibility of Health Canada.
“I stand with the thousands of Canadian families who are waiting in lines today for tests. It has been seven months, Justin Trudeau must answer for why we do not have access to more of the tests our allies are using,” O’Toole said in the statement.
Responding to O’Toole’s comments, Health Minister Patty Hajdu pointed to the federal funding given to provinces to improve their COVID-19 response.
“We know fast and accurate testing is key to keeping COVID-19 under control. The $19B we have given to provinces is to help them keep up with testing demand as we go back to school and work,” she said in a statement. On Wednesday she was asked why Canada has yet to approve any rapid test options, to which she said the holdup has been that there has yet to be a test come up for approval that is accurate enough.
“Tests that don't have a degree of accuracy to the satisfaction of the regulators can actually create further harms in communities. Can you imagine a scenario where people could purchase a rapid test in a pharmacy, let's say, and it's only 50 per cent accurate? We're just not there yet,” Hajdu said Wednesday.
O’Toole is one of two federal party leaders currently in self-isolation.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet has also planned to get tested after his wife was confirmed positive for COVID-19. Her positive diagnosis came after the entire Bloc caucus went into quarantine this week after a staffer in Blanchet’s office contracted the virus.
Speaking about the staffers testing positive and the return of Parliament, Hajdu also said on Wednesday that COVID-19 is a “problem that’s going to be with us for a while” and that MPs travelling to Ottawa and meeting with people is a “very real concern.”
“The nature of our work means that we come into contact with people that may be in contact with other people. We travel frequently for work,” she said. “It presents risk to our communities as well when we travel, so we have to manage that all very carefully.
Early on in the pandemic, Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau contracted COVID-19, which saw Trudeau enter self-isolation with his family. She has since recovered, and citing public health advice at the time because Trudeau was not symptomatic, he did not get tested but said he planned to get a serological test once an effective model became widely available.