Ontario reports 2,005 new COVID-19 cases, 18 more deaths
Meanwhile, province confirmed its first 2 cases of U.K. COVID-19 variant on Saturday
Ontario is reporting 2,005 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and 18 more deaths linked to the virus.
Sunday's figure marks the lowest number reported since Dec. 14, when 1,940 new COVID-19 cases were recorded.
Of the new cases, Health Minister Christine Elliott says 572 were recorded in Toronto, 331 in Peel Region, 207 in York Region and 140 in Windsor-Essex County.
Data regarding the number of tests completed from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26 was not made available by the province until Sunday afternoon. In a tweet, Elliott said 61,465 tests were completed on December 24, followed by 49,511 on Christmas Day and 41,783 on Boxing Day.
The province will not release new COVID-19 data on Monday or on Jan. 1. The health ministry says two reports will be posted on the next days after those dates.
Today's numbers mark the thirteenth straight day Ontario has seen more than 2,000 new daily infections.
Meanwhile, a total of 823 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 285 in intensive care. Some 194 patients require a ventilator to help them breathe.
Today's new cases bring the province's seven-day average to 2,212. The new figure also brings Ontario's cumulative case count to 171,416.
A handful of other areas that saw double-digit increases include:
- Waterloo: 89.
- Niagara: 83.
- Halton: 80.
- Hamilton: 74.
- Durham: 71.
- Middlesex-London: 53.
- Ottawa: 49.
- Simcoe Muskoka: 41.
- Lambton: 37.
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 34.
- Southwestern: 28.
- Huron Perth: 20.
- Eastern Ontario: 18.
- Peterborough: 14.
- Brant County: 11.
(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry's COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)
Ontario identifies first cases of COVID-19 U.K. variant
Sunday's update comes one day after Ontario announced its first two confirmed cases in the province of the COVID-19 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom.
The province announced a third confirmed case of the COVID-19 variant in Ottawa, in a news release on Sunday.
Ontario is the first Canadian province to confirm cases of the variant, which has been detected in several other countries, including Denmark, Belgium, France, Australia and the Netherlands.
The province initially said that the confirmed cases coming from Durham region were a couple that had no known travel history exposure or high-risk contacts, but in the news release on Sunday, they said that additional investigation and follow-up case and contact management revealed that the couple had indeed been in contact with a recent traveller from the UK.
The Ministry of Health said this was new information not provided in earlier interviews.
The cases and contacts have been informed and are now in self-isolation as per public health protocols, it said.
"It is critically important that individuals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 provide all history of contacts and contact information to their public health unit. This is crucial to the prevention and control of this infection," the news release said.
In an email to CBC News on Sunday, Public Health Ontario said laboratories across the province are screening large volumes of positive COVID-19 samples to investigate how prevalent the U.K. variant is in the province.
However, PHO says the diagnostic tests in Canada are effective in detecting the U.K. variant, but do not on their own distinguish that variant from other strains.
WATCH | Ontario becomes first province to identify new COVID-19 variant:
In response to questions from CBC News about preparedness for the new variant, the Ontario government said they've continued to hire more case and contact management staff in order to stay on top of contact tracing.
This week, another 100 people were trained which will put Ontario's contact and case management staff to over 4000, they said.
They said they've continued to call on the federal government to improve the flow of information between border services and enforcement personnel to ensure that travellers do not break their 14-day quarantine when they arrive.
Also on Saturday, Ontario entered into a provincewide lockdown in a bid to curb rising cases of COVID-19.
The restrictions will remain in place for southern Ontario until Jan. 23, but will lift for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.
For the five regions already in lockdown — Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, Windsor-Essex and Hamilton — the new measures don't look much different than what is currently in place, though there are a few differences.
For other regions, much tighter restrictions are now in place.
For more information on what's allowed and what isn't under the new rules, click here.
Vaccinations paused over the holidays
Meanwhile, several doctors across the province took to Twitter over the weekend, criticizing the Ontario government for closing many vaccination clinics as of Friday.
David Jensen, spokesperson for the provincial government, said only five hospitals are operating clinics today, approximately 10 will operate clinics Monday, and all will be back in operation on Tuesday.
"As with any holiday season, ensuring proper staff coverage can be challenging," Jensen said in an email to CBC News.
"Schedules for vaccination clinics were adjusted over the holidays to ensure that there was no impact on staffing levels within the long-term care homes or for the hospitals operating the clinics."
Ontario laboratories began administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to health-care workers earlier this month, and is poised to receive tens of thousands of doses of the newly approved Moderna shot by the end of the month.
As of 12 p.m. on Sunday, some 11,227 vaccines have been administered across Ontario.
Deaths climb after massive outbreak at LTC home
As of Sunday afternoon, 41 residents have died due to a severe COVID-19 outbreak at a Scarborough nursing home. Fifteen of those deaths have occurred in the last four days.
Another 128 residents have tested positive for the virus and 69 staff members who have also been confirmed positive are isolating at home, said North York General Hospital in a statement. Eight staff members who previously were infected are now considered resolved cases and were able to return to work, they said.
Doctors and family members had raised concerns about conditions at the home this week, as they said residents were not being given enough water or their medication due to staffing concerns. North York General has been asked to step in.
Physician staffing levels at the home are now "strong" and health care workers across the city have volunteered to help at the home, the hospital said. Personal support workers are also available in "sufficient" numbers, but they are currently short on nurses and are actively recruiting, they said.
With files from Julia Knope, Sara Jabakhanji, The Canadian Press