Saturday is the final day Ontario residents can walk in to an assessment centre and get a test for COVID-19.

Starting Tuesday, Oct. 6, all COVID-19 assessment centres will start transitioning to an appointment-based system. Patients with COVID-19 symptoms will have to call one of the province's 153 assessment centres and speak to a nurse before making an appointment for a swab.

It is part of an effort by the Ontario Government to relieve the record high backlog of more than 90-thousand tests still under investigation.

"It gives certainty," said Premier Doug Ford in a press conference Friday. "It will make sure folks don’t have to wait outside for hours. It will help us ensure that necessary screening takes place to ensure those who need a test can get a test."

Additional pharmacies have also been added to the fight, now up to 80 will now offer tests by appointment only to asymptomatic people. Ford vows more will be added in the coming weeks.

"It might take a few days to schedule your tests at the start," warned Ford. "But we are working around the clock to keep those times as low as possible."

Those few days are a concern for those like Joshua Starling, who can't go back to work until he got tested for novel coronavirus.

"I need to be able to go back to work,” Starling tells CTV News Ottawa while outside the Kingston COVID-19 assessment centre. "The sooner I get the test done, the sooner I can return."

He says he is concerned that it could take a week to schedule an appointment, which could cut into his his sick days.

"Going purely appointment-based feels like it would end up choking the flow of those who can, and should, get a test," Starling says.

At the Beechgrove Complex in Kingston, health officials say residents will be able to come to the assessment centre to be briefly screened by staff and be manually assigned an appointment time on Sunday and Monday.

By Tuesday, they expect to have an online booking system up and running.

While in Ottawa, facilities will be closed on Sunday and Monday, unless an appointment was made prior to the change over.

The province says by Tuesday, COVID-19 assessment centres province-wide will have transitioned to an appointment based system by phone or online.

Residents speaking to CTV News Ottawa support the move, after facing hours of wait times over the last few weeks.

"That way I can plan my day. I don’t have to take a specific day and hope it’s not raining and stand outside with an umbrella for five or six hours," says Laura Kilpatrick, who has to regularly get tested as she helps her dad in a long-term care facility.

Thomas Redekopp agrees.

"If one was going to be one was going to be in line, or waiting for a few hours I’d rather be doing it in an online environment then outside and potentially exposed," he says.

Ontario health officials are reminding people that they can only seek testing for COVID-19 if you are:

  • Showing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by your public health unit or exposure notification through the COVID Alert App
  • A resident or worker in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by your local public health unit; and
  • Eligible for testing as part of a targeted testing initiative directed by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Long-Term Care