Ontario reports 2,005 COVID-19 cases

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TORONTO — Ontario is reporting 2,005 cases of COVID-19 today and 18 more deaths from the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 572 new cases in Toronto, 331 in Peel, 207 in York Region and 140 in Windsor-Essex County.

The province says 823 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, including 285 people in intensive care and 194 on ventilators.

The province now has added more than 2,000 cases each day for 13 days in a row and is entering its second day of province-wide restrictions to stem the spread.

Elliott says data about the number of tests completed over the holidays is coming shortly after a delay from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26.

Ontario authorities are urging people to stay home as much as possible as part of a provincewide shutdown, after news that a variant of the COVID-19 virus was discovered in the Durham Region on Saturday.

The provincewide shutdown restrictions began Saturday and are in effect in southern Ontario until Jan. 23, and lifting for the less-affected northern regions on Jan. 9.

Chatham-Kent police said this morning that a local church member will be reporting to court next month after over 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.

Meanwhile, the province is calling for a new COVID-19 testing program at airports after a couple from Durham Region was diagnosed with a strain of COVID-19 that has been spreading in the U.K.

The variant contracted by the couple just east of Toronto has also been identified in several other countries, including Denmark, Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands.

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 did not impact vaccine effectiveness.

The Ontario government noted on Saturday that the discovery of the variant was “not unexpected” due to international travel, and that the diagnosed couple has no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts.

The provincial government said it is prepared to start a COVID-19 testing program in airports but is calling for support from the federal government.

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