Ontario students with runny nose, sore throat no longer need negative COVID-19 test to return to school

TORONTO — Children who only have a runny nose or a sore throat will no longer need to test negative for COVID-19 in order to return to school or daycare but they will still have to stay home for at least 24 hours.

The Ontario government previously said that children exhibiting any of the 17 symptoms listed in its screening questionnaire would have to self-isolate at home for 14 days or test negative for COVID-19 before returning to school or daycare.

The province, however, has now loosened those guidelines amid reports of sustained long lineups at many GTA assessment centres.

It will still require a negative COVID test if a child has developed one of the four symptoms most commonly associated with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus – fever, cough, loss of taste or smell and shortness of breath.

But if they are exhibiting just one symptom that is less associated with COVID-19, such as a runny nose or a headache, they can return after 24 hours so long as their condition is improving.

The province has also removed abdominal pain and pink eye from its symptom list entirely.

“Ensuring that children can attend school with minimal interruption is an important part of their healthy growth and development,” Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said in a press release announcing the changes.

“Based on a review of the current evidence and consulting with paediatric infectious diseases experts, we are updating the list of symptoms in the COVID-19 screening tool for schools and child care to ensure that our children receive the education and care that they need while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.”

The decision to revise the screening guidance for schools and daycares comes after the British Columbia government removed ten symptoms from its list for school-aged children, including runny nose, headache and fatigue.

It should be noted that the revised screening guidance will still require that any child exhibiting more than one of the listed symptoms either test negative for COVID-19 or receive an alternate diagnosis from a doctor before returning to school or daycare.

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