TORONTO — Ontario’s top doctor says the province must cut its daily COVID-19 case counts to below 1,000 before lockdown measures can be lifted.

Dr. David Williams called the goal “achievable” and said the last time the province saw similar daily case counts was late October.

Williams says he would also like to see the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital intensive care units drop to 150.

The province reported today that 395 people were in hospital intensive care units across Ontario.

Williams says the province’s daily case rates appear to have plateaued and may have begun to drop.

He attributes the change to a provincewide lockdown which came into effect on Boxing Day. 

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford said a new hospital set to open in Vaughan, Ont., will be used to relieve a capacity crunch because of rising COVID-19 rates.

Ford said some patients from overcrowded Greater Toronto Area hospitals will be transferred to Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital when it opens on Feb. 7.

The hospital will add 35 new critical care beds and 150 medical beds to the province’s bed capacity.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said some Toronto hospitals are already transferring patients to Kingston, Ont,. and Niagara Region to help ease crowding.

The province said that once the COVID-19 capacity pressures have stabilized, the new Vaughan hospital will provide care to patients in York Region as originally planned.

The province also said it will spend $125 million to create 500 additional beds to deal with the latest virus surge which it has warned could overwhelm hospitals.

Ontario reported 2,578 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 24 more deaths linked to the virus. There were 815 new cases in Toronto and 507 in Peel Region,  as well as 151 more cases in York and Niagara regions.

There were 9,691 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine administered since Ontario’s last daily report.

The province reported that nearly 40,300 tests were completed since the last daily update.

There have been 240,364 cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario since the pandemic began, and 206,310 cases have been resolved, while 5,433 Ontarians have died from the virus.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health said 209,788 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.

A clinic dedicated to administering vaccines opened in a Toronto convention centre on Monday morning. 

City officials said the “proof-of-concept” clinic will help Ontario’s Ministry of Health test and adjust the setup of immunization clinics in non-hospital settings. 

The clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which is in the downtown core, aims to vaccinate 250 people per day, but the city notes that is entirely dependent upon vaccine supply. 

Pfizer-BioNTech, which manufactures one of the two Health Canada-approved vaccines, announced last week that it’s temporarily delaying international shipments of the shots while it upgrades production facilities in Europe. 

The Ontario government has said that will affect the province’s vaccine distribution plan, and some people will see their booster shots delayed by several weeks. 

The City of Hamilton, meanwhile, said the province has directed it to temporarily cease administering the first dose of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to everyone except residents, staff and essential caregivers at long-term care homes and retirement facilities. 

A spokeswoman for the Health Minister did not say how many regions of the province had received that directive. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. 

The Canadian Press

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