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The top doctor in an Ontario region hit with outbreaks of a new COVID-19 variant says residents should still take a “stay at home” approach when the provincewide order ends.

The stay-at-home order will be in effect until most regions move back to the government’s tiered restrictions system on Feb. 16.

Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for Simcoe-Muskoka, says he would have preferred to see the order extended.

He noted the presence of the variant that first emerged in the U.K., which has been linked to deadly institutional outbreaks in the area.

It’s one of three virus strains Public Health Ontario is screening for, believed to be more infectious and potentially causing more severe illness.

Gardner says the situation is precarious and lifting restrictions risks greater transmission with a variant in the community.

Ontario reported 1,022 new cases of COVID-19 today and 17 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 343 new cases in Toronto, 250 in Peel Region and 128 in York Region.

Elliott also said nearly 30,800 tests were completed since Monday’s update.

Ontario reported that 12,462 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since the last daily report.

A total of 398,633 doses of vaccine have been administered in the province.

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