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Ontario Premier Doug Ford takes part in a news conference in Toronto, on Nov, 13, 2020.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Premier Doug Ford is promising to increase COVID-19 testing in the province’s long-term care homes amid a rise in cases at the facilities.

Ford says he is meeting with government staff today to discuss a plan for more frequent surveillance testing, which is conducted even if a person does not have symptoms.

The premier says increased testing must also be combined with quick turnaround times for results.

His comments come after several large outbreaks in Toronto have lead to dozens of nursing home residents contracting the virus.

Modelling released by the province earlier last week showed that mortality rates in long-term care homes have been on the rise in the second wave of the pandemic.

The province says 107 of its 626 long-term care homes are experiencing an outbreak.

It says 716 long-term care residents currently have COVID-19.

Meanwhile, a COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at the Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute after 13 students tested positive for the virus.

When asked about the outbreak, Toronto Public Health says it will advise if a class, cohort or a school should be closed for a period of time.

Ontario reported 1,487 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, and 10 new deaths due to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 508 cases are in Toronto, 392 in Peel Region and 170 in York Region.

The province also reported 106 new COVID-19 cases related to schools, including at least 63 among students.

Those bring the number of schools with a reported case to 683 out of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools.

Meanwhile, three regions in the Toronto area joined the COVID-19 red zone on Monday.

The stricter public health measures came into effect in Hamilton, York and Halton regions.

Toronto joined Peel Region in the red alert level – the highest short of a full lockdown – on Saturday.

Another six regions, such as Durham and Waterloo, will move to the orange alert level, and six more, including Windsor-Essex and Sudbury, will join the yellow alert level.

The developments came just days after Premier Doug Ford lowered the thresholds for his colour-coded restrictions system.

He said on Friday that recent COVID-19 projections show the province is “staring down the barrel of another lockdown.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Dr. Theresa Tam say COVID-19 is on a runaway rise in most of the country as the seasons for both holidays and colds and flu approach. They say strict public health rules might help but nothing is more important than following those rules and being extra cautious about spreading contagion — especially if people hope to have any sort of gatherings at Christmas.

The Canadian Press

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