TORONTO -- The current lockdown measures in Toronto and Peel Region are not having the same impact in curbing the spread of COVID-19 as they did in March, according to new modelling released by the Ontario government.

The province announced the finding during a news conference on Thursday afternoon, where experts also detailed the most updated projections for the spread of the disease in Ontario.

The government said one of its key findings is that the current lockdown in Toronto and Peel Region has not had nearly as much impact on curtailing mobility, and likely contacts, as the lockdown did in March.

In April, anonymous data showed that nearly 80 per cent of mobile devices in Toronto stayed at home throughout the day, but that number now dropped to about 60 per cent.

The data showed that Peel Region is seeing 197 cases per 100,000 residents per week, while Toronto is seeing 118. Those numbers appeared to dip when the province first introduced lockdown measures at the end of November, but days later, they hiked back up.

However, if the province takes back restriction and lockdown measures, case numbers in the province could get worse, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown of the University of Toronto warned while speaking about the projections on Thursday.

“The current set of restrictions are not reducing mobility as much as the original quite significant restrictions in the spring,” he said. “If we see a relaxation of those restrictions, we would also expect to see an increase in the case rate and not surprisingly increased mobility as well.”

The modelling presented examined four different paths that the province could take depending on the growth in cases between now and early January.

Brown said if cases grow at a rate of three per cent over the next month, which is a slightly accelerated pace than the 2.47 per cent growth rate seen over the last 14 days, the province would end up with roughly 5,000 daily cases in January.

However, in a better scenario, he said data predicts that if the rate of growth were to slow to one per cent, the province would have about 2,500 daily cases.

In the worst-case scenario, based on the five per cent growth rate that Ontario briefly saw in November before the lockdown in Toronto and Peel, the province could see nearly 10,000 daily cases by early January.

Number of COVID-19 patients in ICU, deaths may increase

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams spoke at the news conference on Thursday to explain what the modelling data means for the province’s residents.

He said that while COVID-19 case numbers continue to grow, the per cent positivity rate appears to be flattening as the province conducted record-breaking amounts of testing.

“A lot of testing is getting done and the present positivity, going up and down, has been moving between, I would say about 3.3 per cent up to just five and back down again,” Williams told reporters.

The modelling also showed that the number of new COVID-19 cases in long-term care settings are flattening. However, Williams and Brown warned that deaths in these settings remain high and may continue to increase.

“Long Term Care mortality, and overall mortality to continue to increase, and may exceed 25 deaths per day within a month,” Brown said. “Mortality varies day-to-day quite significantly, but we're able to using forecasting to look ahead and see what, at least the average expected amount of mortality is going to be.”

Officials said 115 long-term care homes are currently in outbreak, with 119 confirmed cases in these homes. The data said 496 residents have died since August, and 102 of those deaths took place within the last seven days.

The province also found that the number of people in hospital and intensive care units (ICUs) due to the novel coronavirus is continuing to rise.

There are currently 829 patents in Ontario hospitals due to the disease, and 228 of those patients are in ICUs, according to the province.

The data stated that the province saw a 91.6 per cent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past four weeks, and a 165.9 per cent increase in the number of patients in intensive care due to the disease.

Officials predict more than 200 beds will be occupied by COVID-19 patients under all scenarios for at least a month.

Brown said if the infection growth rate is somewhere between one and three per cent, the province can expect to see 250 to 350 ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

The province has said that once the number of patients with the disease in intensive care gets to 300, it becomes almost “impossible” to handle other non-COVID-19 needs in hospitals.

“This is not evenly distributed across the province. This is not a few beds in every hospital. This is heavily concentrated in Peel and Toronto,” Brown said.

“When ICUs become heavily affected by COVID like this, you really start to see interruptions in service, including necessary and emergency service.”

“We're over the threshold at which we believe we have to start canceling and delaying elective surgery. We are now at that threshold, particularly in a number of communities, where important care is being delayed.”

Ontario reported 1,983 new cases on Thursday, a record for the highest number of COVID-19 cases reported in a single day. Williams said the province could see over 2,000 cases over the next few days as more testing for the disease is completed.

The total number of lab-confirmed cases in Ontario is now 134,783, including 3,871 deaths and 114,679 recoveries.