Ontario sees 1,677 new cases

Colin Perkel
The Canadian Press

TORONTO – Another 16 people in Ontario have succumbed to the ravages of COVID-19, 10 of them residents of nursing homes, provincial authorities reported on Sunday.

The province has now had almost 4,000 people die from the novel coronavirus, data show.

With just days before the first vaccinations were slated to take place, authorities reported 1,677 new infections, a drop of around 10 per cent from a day earlier. Also falling were the number of patients in hospitals as well as those on ventilators.

However, ICU admissions rose by 16, bringing the total to 253 people needing intensive care.

The province has announced the first anti-COVID vaccinations will begin with a pilot project on Tuesday. The aim is to inoculate more than 2,500 health-care workers in Ottawa and Toronto with the Health Canada approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

In the interim, the grim toll among the province’s most frail continued its climb in 136 long-term care homes – roughly 20 per cent of Ontario’s facilities. COVID-19 is blamed for killing 2,391 residents, accounting for about 60 per cent of all deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.

Eight staff have also died.

While eight nursing homes managed to beat the spread of infections, according to new data, eight others reported outbreaks.

In an effort to slow the viral spread, York Region and Windsor-Essex were set for lockdowns, the most stringent level of restrictions under the province’s anti-pandemic plan. Starting Monday, indoor public events, dining in restaurants and bars, and close personal care services are off-limits. Indoor sports facilities also have to close, while non-essential retail is limited to curbside pickup.

The restrictions – similar to those in Toronto and Peel Region – also bar social gatherings except for members of the same household. Health authorities have urged people to leave home only if absolutely needed.

“Limit all trips outside your home for essential reasons only, like buying groceries or medical appointments,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet Sunday.

Elliott, who said the spread of COVID-19 had reached a “critical point,” noted seven more public health regions were being bumped up a restriction notch.

Tighter restrictions were needed, the province said, to slow the spread of COVID-19 so that schools can stay open and hospital capacity be protected.

Toronto police on Sunday said they had charged two business owners for allegedly breaching COVID-19 regulations. Police said they were running a bar with a large crowd inside in the early hours.

COVID-19 testing fell 10 per cent over the weekend, with public health authorities reporting 58,190 new tests. The rate of positive tests, however, has been stable at 3.2 per cent for several days.

Latest figures from the Ontario Laboratories Information System suggest the highest percentage of positive tests have occurred among 14- to 17-year-olds, with those aged 18 to 24 the next highest group.

Quebec has also struggled to curb the spread of the virus, reporting on Sunday 1,994 new cases and another 33 related deaths. The province has now recorded 163,915 infections and 7,508 deaths – significantly higher than in more populous Ontario – since the pandemic began.