LONDON, ONT -- The Mayor of London, Ont. reached out to the premier's office and is appealing for the “urgent expansion” of COVID-19 testing to local pharmacies.

The appeal comes after the Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU) says both COVID-19 assessment centres are now closed after reaching capacity before the noon hour Thursday.

In a phone call to the Premier’s Office Thursday, the mayor says he wants officials to know the dire need to expand testing in London and area.

The call was made less than a day after Ontario Premier Doug Ford said additional testing would be made available starting Friday at up to 60 pharmacies, all of them located in the GTA, Ottawa, and Huntsville.

“While the majority of new cases in recent weeks have been occurring in Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa, I want to make sure the Premier’s office understands the dire need for expanded testing here in London and the immediate surrounding area,” says Holder in a news release.

“Londoners simply need more options. Our two primary assessment centres, at Oakridge and Carling Heights, are regularly at capacity within a few hours of opening, and satellite testing facilities on campus at Fanshawe and Western are extremely limited.”

In a media briefing Thursday, Dr. Chris Mackie, medical officer of health for MLHU, says he expanding testing to pharmacies would be helpful. "I'm very supportive of (the request)." 

Between September 12 and 24, London-Middlesex has recorded 83 new cases of COVID-19. That compares to just 14 cases over the same period between August 30 and September 11.

“Given the recent surge in cases locally, along with students of all ages heading back to school, Londoners are understandably concerned. Providing pharmacies in our city with the necessary resources to conduct COVID-19 tests would go a long way towards reducing extreme wait times at our existing assessment centres,” says Holder.

“We have had great cooperation with our provincial counterparts since the onset of this pandemic, and I am hopeful the Premier will act swiftly on this urgent request.”

It’s expected London-Middlesex will exceed its one week testing record by end of day Sunday, breaking the previous mark set between September 13 and 19 when nearly 4,700 people were tested.