Toronto

Number of COVID-19 tests in Ontario reaches daily record high of over 20,000

Ontario reported 323 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday morning as the province hits a new record in daily testing numbers.

Total comes as Ontario reported 323 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday morning

A total of 20,640 tests were processed on Friday, exceeding the current daily target of 16,000. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario reported 323 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday morning as the province reached a new record in daily testing numbers.

A total of 20,640 tests were processed on Friday, exceeding the current daily target of 16,000 for a third straight day. The system has the capacity to handle more than 25,000 on any given day.

The new cases bring the provincial total since the outbreak began to 27,533.

A total of 801 people have been hospitalized with the novel coronavirus, with 121 patients in intensive care units and 84 on ventilators. 

According to the province, there have been 2,247 COVID-19-related deaths, an increase of 17 deaths from the last report. 

Using data from local public health units, CBC News has counted a total of 2,310 deaths in Ontario as of 12:30 p.m. ET, an increase of 12 deaths since Friday.

A total of 21,353 people have recovered from the virus.

Province to reopen drive-in theatres, batting cages

Ontario is set to reopen drive-in theatres and batting cages and reintroduce backcountry camping as the province continues to loosen measures in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The province says existing outdoor drive-in movie theatres will be allowed to resume business starting on Sunday.

The decision comes as the province proceeds with stages of a larger reopening plan.

Drive-in theatres have been operating in other parts of the country, but Ontario delayed opening them because health officials were concerned about the spread of COVID-19 without sufficient physical distancing in place.

The province says washrooms in the facilities will be operating as long as health and safety requirements are followed.

Ontario will also permit batting cages to reopen on Sunday.

Backcountry camping available starting Monday

The province has also given backcountry camping at Ontario Parks and on Crown Lands the clear to reopen.

As of June 1, Ontario Parks will open up access points, paddle and portage routes and hiking trails, as well as day-use activities, such as picnicking and off-leash pet areas. 

Recreational camping will also reopen on Crown land.

Backcountry camping will be available at Ontario Parks and Crown Lands starting June 1. (CBC)

But the province says some measures will still be in place. These include restricting campsites to no more than five visitors during a stay, unless the group of people lives in the same household.

The province is also reminding visitors to practice physical distancing and to wear a face covering when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Overnight camping sites will remain closed, however, until at least June 14, as will park stores, roofed accommodations, playgrounds and beaches.

Province increases funding for retirement home residents

The Ontario government has increased funding for retirement home residents in cases of emergency, such as an COVID-19 outbreak, the province announced in a news release on Saturday. 

Under the new regulatory amendment, emergency payments for eligible residents will increase from $2,000 to $3,500, and the province says the funding can be used to cover costs for transportation, alternative accommodation or temporary care. 

Meanwhile, retirement homes would be required to report infectious disease outbreaks to the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority during the pandemic and into the future.

"We are making sure seniors have the financial resources they need in the event of an emergency, and are making it easier for the retirement home regulator to work with local public health authorities," Premier Doug Ford in the news release.

The province has reported 5 more outbreaks in long-term care homes since its previous report, bringing the total to 305.

Province provides relief on hydro bills

The province is offering some relief to Ontarians on electrical bills.

Ontario Energy Minister Greg Rickford said in a news release on Saturday that Ontario will be putting in place a fixed electricity price starting June 1 and that price will continue until October 1, 2020. 

Known as the COVID-19 Recovery Rate, Ontarians will be paying 12.8 cents per kWh, which will be automatically applied to all time-of-use customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The relief comes as many people are staying home to curb the spread of COVID-19 and the province said this change will "provide consumers with greater stability and predictability with their electricity bills." 

The province said the price is based on the average cost of electricity, set by the Ontario Energy Board. It said families and business-owners will no longer need to worry about paying on-peak and mid-peak prices.

With files from the Canadian Press

now