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Ontario is tightening restrictions for the Middlesex-London region following an increase in COVID-19 cases.

The province says it is activating its “emergency brake” measure to move the area into the second-strictest “red” category of the province’s pandemic framework.

The move takes effect on Tuesday.

Regions are placed in the red category if they’ve had repeated outbreaks in multiple sectors and settings that could overwhelm hospital and intensive care capacity.

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The province says the Middlesex-London health unit’s case rate increased by 86.9 per cent last week, to 64.4 cases per 100,000 people.

The government says the region is also reporting an increase in cases screened as variants of concern.

The province’s top doctor says he made the decision in co-operation with the local medical officer of health.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s health minister says the province is studying COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy levels as it continues to urge people to get inoculated.

Christine Elliott says some people have expressed concern about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine or a preference to receive the shot from their own family doctor.

Elliott received her first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on Monday at a Toronto pharmacy, which she hopes will help combat vaccine hesitancy.

She says the shots are safe and help reduce hospitalizations and illness from COVID-19.

A total of 2,031,735 vaccine doses have been administered in the province so far.

Ontario reported 2,094 new cases of COVID-19 today and 10 more deaths linked to the virus.

Dr. Theresa Tam says COVID-19 vaccines are beginning to smother the pandemic in Canada but she urges slow and cautious removal of public health restrictions so they can be of maximum benefit. Reopening too soon, especially as more contagious variants spread, will likely just mean slamming things shut again after people get sick.

The Canadian Press

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