To date in Ontario, more than 21,000 samples that tested positive for COVID-19 have also screened positive for a particular genetic mutation that indicates the presence of a variant.
Ontario is launching a state of emergency and a new stay-at-home order in yet another effort to control the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order came into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and stay in effect for four weeks.
Case rates, hospitalizations, and ICU occupancy are increasing rapidly across the province, threatening to overwhelm the health care system as a whole.
The government of Ontario is asking residents to limit their travels to going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services (including getting vaccinated), for outdoor exercise, or for work that can not be done remotely.
Outdoor garden centres, plant nurseries and indoor greenhouses can open for retail sales with a capacity limit of 25 per cent. Vaccinations will commence during the April break starting with priority neighborhoods in Toronto and Peel, then rolling out to priority neighborhoods in other hot spot regions, including York, Ottawa, Hamilton, Halton and Durham.
Schools will remain open during the stay-at-home order, except where local public health units have ordered them to close.
However, the province says education workers who provide direct daily support to students with special education needs across the province, and all education workers in high-risk neighbourhoods in Toronto and Peel will be immediately eligible for a vaccine. "Although this is hard, I urge everyone to follow these public health measures and together we will defeat this deadly virus".
Ontario reported 416 new cases of COVID-19 among school-aged children on Wednesday.
The province says that 108,000 more doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered on April 7, bringing the total number administered to more than 2.8 million.
The organization says vaccinations are important so that the sector can continue to keep workplaces open and safe.
"The COVID-19 situation is at a critical stage and we must act quickly and decisively to stay ahead of these deadly new variants", said the premier. The seven-day average of daily deaths is now about 15 - a figure that topped 60 per day during the second wave of the illness, before most long-term care residents were vaccinated.
"What we do until we start achieving mass immunisation will be the difference between life and death for thousands of people", he said.