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Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks during a news conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, on Sept. 28, 2020.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’s considering imposing stricter COVID-19 restrictions on at least one more Toronto-area region where daily new cases have been rising lately.

Ford says it’s “concerning” to see the numbers go up in Halton Region, and he’ll make a decision Monday on whether the area needs to move back into a modified Stage 2 of the province’s economic reopening plan.

Asked if a similar move would be considered for Durham Region, where new cases are also increasing, Ford said the province will look at every area seeing “a little escalation” and provide clarity on Monday.

Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa moved to a modified Stage 2 – which includes the closure of gyms and movie theatres, and a ban on indoor dining in restaurants or bars – on Oct. 10, while York Region did so this week.

Ontario is reporting 826 new cases of COVID-19 today, and nine new deaths due to the virus.

The province says 292 cases are in Toronto, 186 in Peel Region, 87 in Ottawa, and 72 in York Region. Halton Region is reporting 34 new cases and Durham Region, 38.

Provincial health officials also laid out a plan Friday to distribute the first batch of COVID-19 rapid tests, which are expected to arrive next month, with more coming in the future.

The initial round of tests will be used in remote communities and in outbreak situations to help reduce the turnaround time in getting results, they said.

About 100,000 tests will be polymerase chain reaction tests, or PCR, which search for the presence of the virus’s genetic material.

The province also expects to receive antigen-based rapid tests next month, which look for specific markers on the outside of a virus, but officials say it’s not yet known how many.

Dr. Vanessa Allen, the chief of medical microbiology at the Public Health Ontario laboratory, said everyone who undergoes a rapid test in the first few weeks will also take a regular, lab-based test to ensure better accuracy.

The rapid tests are known to be less sensitive and the duplication is meant to avoid missing any new cases, she said.

The province said Friday it had conducted 40,019 tests since the last daily report, with another 35,436 being processed.

In total, 276 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 78 in intensive care.

It also reported 72 new COVID-19 cases related to schools, including at least 39 among students. Those bring the number of schools with a reported case to 514 out of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says combating fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious challenge for public health. Tam and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau both say the amount of disinformation hitting Canadians about the pandemic is troubling.

The Canadian Press

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