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Ontario’s health minister says the government isn’t changing course on its reopening plan despite a recent rise in COVID-19 infections.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says a bump in cases was anticipated during the colder weather as people move indoors, and that was factored into the province’s plans.

Experts told The Canadian Press this week that cold weather and the lifting of provincial crowd restrictions on some venues like stadiums and restaurants might be behind the growth in cases.

Tuesday saw 441 new cases reported in the province and seven-day average of 492 daily infections, up from 371 a week ago.

Ms. Elliott said if restrictions are reintroduced it will be by region and most likely led by local medical officers of health because they have the best knowledge of their areas and what must be done.

She pointed to a decision by Sudbury’s top doctor to reintroduce capacity limits and other measures in response to a significant rise in cases, and said the province will take a local approach with the rest of the province too.

“We’re going to stay the course at this point, but of course we’re looking at the situation every day,” Ms. Elliott told reporters in Brampton, Ont., on Tuesday.

The Progressive Conservative government plans to gradually ease public health restrictions until all measures including mask requirements and proof of vaccination by the end of next March.

Restaurants, stadiums, gyms, casinos and other spaces that accept proof of vaccination can currently operate at full capacity.

The province aims to start lifting proof-of-vaccination rules on some businesses like restaurants, bars and gyms in January as long as the COVID-19 situation doesn’t become concerning.

Ms. Elliott said Tuesday that even with the rising cases, the province’s relatively high vaccination rate – with 85 per cent of the eligible population having received both shots – is making a difference with fewer people now hospitalized in intensive care.

“We don’t want to be overwhelmed again, but I think that shows the value of the double vaccination,” she said. “It will save your life.”

Ontario reported three additional deaths from the virus on Tuesday.

There were 134 people in intensive care with COVID-19 related critical illness, including 78 people on ventilators and 15 patients from Saskatchewan.

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