TORONTO — Ontario is considering imposing stricter COVID-19 restrictions on at least one more Toronto-area region where daily new cases have been on the rise, Premier Doug Ford said Friday.
Provincial officials will examine the situation in Halton Region over the weekend to decide whether the area needs to move back into a modified Stage 2 of the province's economic reopening plan, the premier said.
"It's concerning right now, I've seen the numbers go up again," he said.
Asked if a similar move would be considered for Durham Region, where new cases are also increasing, Ford said the province will look at every area seeing "a little escalation" and provide clarity on Monday.
Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa moved to a modified Stage 2 - which includes the closure of gyms and movie theatres, and a ban on indoor dining in restaurants or bars - on Oct. 10, while York Region did so this week.
The tighter rules are set to be reviewed after 28 days, and Ford said he would make decisions on any steps beyond that based on the advice of the provincial health team.
"I just want to make sure we keep our hands around this and do everything we can with balancing the economy as well," he said.
Ontario reported 826 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and nine new deaths due to the virus.
The province said 292 cases are in Toronto, 186 in Peel Region, 87 in Ottawa, and 72 in York Region. Halton Region reported 34 new cases and Durham Region, 38.
Provincial health officials also laid out a plan Friday to distribute the first batch of COVID-19 rapid tests, which are expected to arrive next month, with more coming in the future.
The initial round of tests will be used in remote communities and in outbreak situations to help reduce the turnaround time in getting results, they said.
About 100,000 tests will be polymerase chain reaction tests, or PCR, which search for the presence of the virus's genetic material.
The province also expects to receive antigen-based rapid tests next month, which look for specific markers on the outside of a virus, but officials say it's not yet known how many.
Dr. Vanessa Allen, the chief of medical microbiology at the Public Health Ontario laboratory, said everyone who undergoes a rapid test in the first few weeks will also take a regular, lab-based test to ensure better accuracy.
The rapid tests are known to be less sensitive and the duplication is meant to avoid missing any new cases, she said.
"We offer the advantage of a rapid results, but absolutely need to make sure that we don't miss cases and so there will be duplicate testing of everything at the beginning, with the plan to reduce some of the duplicate testing as the data supports it as we go forward," she said.
The province said Friday it had conducted 40,019 tests since the last daily report, with another 35,436 being processed.
In total, 276 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 78 in intensive care.
It also reported 72 new COVID-19 cases related to schools, including at least 39 among students. Those bring the number of schools with a reported case to 514 out of Ontario's 4,828 publicly funded schools.
Meanwhile, Ontario announced Friday afternoon that Canadian Red Cross teams would offer short-term help to a long-term care home in Hawkesbury, Ont.
The government said the Prescott and Russell Residence is facing challenges due to COVID-19 and the Red Cross will help with meal delivery, housekeeping and light cleaning duties. The team will also help "socialize and engage" with residents so front-line workers can focus on direct care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 23, 2020.
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press