New COVID-19 cases exceed 4,000 in Ontario as capacity limits come into effect

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TORONTO — Stricter public health measures came into effect in Ontario on Sunday as a wave of COVID-19 cases fuelled by the Omicron variant of the virus continued its rapid growth.

Ontario reported 4,177 new cases of the virus -- more than two-thirds of which are in people who are fully vaccinated -- in what was the highest daily tally since April 23.

The seven-day average of cases swelled to 2,542 Sunday, compared with 1,236 a week earlier.

The province announced Friday that it would reinstate 50-per-cent capacity limits in many indoor settings starting Sunday, including restaurants, gyms, personal care services and retailers, while also capping indoor social gatherings at 10 people.

The province also barred dancing at clubs and instituted restricted hours for serving alcohol.

At least one Toronto club announced it would be closing its doors temporarily due in part to the restrictions.

Dean Odorico, manager of Woody's in Toronto's gay village, posted the news on Facebook.

"Due to the rapid spread, and the uncertainty of the new variant, the impending restrictions and most of all, the well-being of our patrons, staff and entertainers, Woody’s will be closed now, until further notice," he wrote. "We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates ... We just need more time to ensure a safe transition."

When Premier Doug Ford announced the new restrictions on Friday, he said the Omicron variant — now dominant in the province — is so contagious it threatens to overwhelm the health-care system.

The province's science advisers have said two doses of COVID-19 vaccine are only 35 per cent effective against the variant three months after being administered, while a third dose bumps efficacy up to 75 per cent.

In the province, 86.3 per cent of residents aged five and older have at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 81.1 per cent have at least two doses.

Two deaths were also reported Sunday.

Hospitalizations appeared to decrease with 283 people in hospital — including 159 who are in intensive care and 103 on ventilators. The number of hospitalizations decreased by 99, but not all hospitals report on the weekends.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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