Ontario reports 2,005 cases of COVID-19, 13th day of more than 2,000 diagnoses

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TORONTO — Ontario reported 2,005 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, marking the 13th straight day the province has seen upwards of 2,000 new diagnoses.

The province also announced another 18 deaths linked to the virus.

It says 823 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Sunday, including 285 people in intensive care and 194 on ventilators.

Also Sunday, the province announced it had detected its third case of a contagious new strain of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Public Health Ontario says the patient is from the Ottawa area, and recently returned from the U.K., where the coronavirus variant was first discovered.

The province logged its first two known cases of the variant on Saturday, in a couple from Durham Region who were in contact with someone who had travelled the U.K.

Public Health Ontario said it is screening large volumes of positive COVID samples to investigate how prevalent the U.K. variant is in the province.

But health officials are not planning to report the different strains out separately in provincial summary reports.

The province's health officials said that while Canada's diagnostic tests pick up the U.K. variant, the diagnostic tests do not distinguish which strain is which.

That requires additional testing, which Public Health Ontario is doing with labs across the province at Sunnybrook, University Health Network, OICR and McMaster.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said early data suggests these new variants may be more transmissible, but ongoing research so far indicates the variant does not impact vaccine effectiveness.

Officials are urging people to stay home as much as possible as part of a provincewide lockdown that began Saturday.

The restrictions are in effect in southern Ontario until Jan. 23, and until Jan. 9 in northern Ontario.

But even so, Chatham-Kent police announced Sunday that a local church member is due in court next month after more than 100 maskless people gathered inside Old Colony Mennonite Church in Wheatley, Ont. on Saturday.

Police responded to a report about the church gathering at 11 a.m. on Saturday and said everyone complied with police requests to end the service and leave the property.

The provincewide restrictions allow for religious services of up to 10 masked people indoors.

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has also been adjusted over the holiday weekend, with five hospitals offering shots on Sunday, 10 vaccination clinics opening on Monday, and all vaccine sites reopening on Tuesday.

The province says about 11,241 vaccine doses have been administered in the first phase of the Pfizer-BioNTech program, which is limited to on health-care workers and care providers at long-term care homes.

Meanwhile, North York General Health said late Saturday that it's "working intensively" to control a serious outbreak at Tendercare Living Centre in east-end Toronto, where 116 residents and 77 staff have the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press