Ontario reports 566 new COVID-19 cases as walk-in tests come to end across province

Ontario reported 566 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as walk-in COVID-19 tests end across the province. 

New cases largely concentrated in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa

People wait in line for a COVID-19 test at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto on Friday. In an effort to work through Ontario's testing backlog, the provincial government has announced that assessment centres will no longer accept walk-ins. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reported 566 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as walk-in tests for the novel coronavirus end across the province. 

Sunday's numbers are largely concentrated in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa, which reported 196, 123 and 81 new cases, respectively. 

According to the Ontario health ministry, the move to appointment-only testing will enable the province's network of labs to deal with a backlog of tests. That backlog has grown to 78,953. 

Saturday was the last day that COVID-19 assessment centres accepted walk-ins. 

Starting on Tuesday, anyone in Ontario who wants to take a COVID-19 test will need to book an appointment at an assessment centre or select pharmacies. 

You can find the province's list of testing locations here

Meanwhile, Ontario's network of community, commercial and hospital labs processed 39,661 novel coronavirus test samples on Saturday, the ministry said. 

Health Minister Christine Elliott said a number of Sunday's cases and deaths occurred in the spring or summer but are being reported now due to a data review by Toronto Public Health (TPH). Elliott attributed some cases reported on Saturday to the data review as well.

The province's official death toll now sits at 2,975. Of those, four are new, while three are attributed to the data review, Elliott said. 

Sunday's new cases bring Ontario's cumulative total to 54,199. Of those, 534 were marked as resolved in Sunday's update.

In addition to the province's three COVID-19 hot spots — Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa — other areas with double-digit increases include:

  • York Region: 42.
  • Halton Region: 25.
  • Niagara Region: 17.
  • Waterloo Region: 14.
  • Durham Region: 13.

Elliott said 62 per cent of Sunday's cases were among people under the age of 40. 

Meanwhile, the number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus is now 169, an increase of 14. The ministry said that number is likely higher due to the fact that dozens of hospitals across the province do not submit COVID-19 data on weekends. 

The number of patients in intensive care units, as well as those on ventilators, was not available in Sunday's provincial update. 

Toronto Public Health halts contact tracing

Meanwhile, soaring COVID-19 case numbers in Toronto has prompted the local public health unit to scale back its contact tracing efforts starting Saturday as tightened public health restrictions took effect in some of the province's other hardest-hit regions.

Toronto Public Health (TPH) said rapid increases in the city's case counts has made it necessary to make a "strategic shift" in its approach to tracing those who may have been in contact with COVID-19 patients. 

Lenore Bromley, spokesperson for TPH, said officials previously tried to connect with all close contacts of infected residents, but the current case load makes such an approach unsustainable.

"We are now shifting to case and contact management that is focused on the most high-risk cases," Bromley said in a statement. 

"We are focusing on people whose infection poses the most risk to others. The current high case count demands that we make this change and push for new public health measures."

WATCH | Toronto business owner on what a second lockdown would mean for his restaurant: 

Second lockdown means business would 'struggle,' restaurateur says

3 years ago
Duration 4:20
The owner of a Toronto restaurant says his business would struggle to keep its doors open if the city went into a second lockdown. He says he's doing his best to remain optimistic regardless.

The city's top doctor outlined a laundry list of potential measures on Friday as she called on the provincial government to take stronger action in its efforts to fight the global pandemic.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's medical officer of health, suggested the province ban indoor restaurant and bar service for four weeks — two incubation periods for the virus — suspend indoor fitness classes and sports, and ask people to only leave their homes for essential trips.

De Villa said while she has some authority to make such changes under existing public health regulations, she received legal advice suggesting it would be "unprecedented" for a local medical officer of health to enact such sweeping measures.

With files from The Canadian Press