TORONTO -- As Peel Region continues to report new daily COVID-19 case numbers in the triple digits, the Ontario government has announced that more testing resources and increased hospital capacity will be made available to assist the beleaguered municipality.

The announcement brings with it the opening of three new community-based testing centres in Brampton, while also establishing several other mobile testing sites to respond to an increase in “localized demand for tests” in the area.

As well, the province will offer limited walk-in availability at assessment centres for residents who are unable to book an appointment online or by phone. 

Seven pharmacies or specimen collection centres have also been designated to be set up in partnership with LifeLabs, Dynacare and Alpha over the next two weeks to help with test processing.

The $572 million in funding to make these resources available to Peel Region was included in the provincial budget tabled last week and will see the hiring of 70 additional case and contact management staff working to support Peel Region directly.

Another $42 million will go to the procurement of up to 234 new beds at three Peel Region hospitals to free up capacity, which is welcome news to the local William Osler Health System and Trillium Health Partners, both of which are at capacity.

Elliott could not say exactly when those beds will become available but said that the government is working on “developing them, putting them in place with the necessary staff as quickly as possible.”

As part of the province’s new tiered COVID-19 shutdown system, Peel Region was moved to the control level on Saturday, the only area in Ontario being placed in the “red” zone, which allows for indoor dining and access to gyms with strict conditions in place. 

While met with some criticism, Ontario Premier Doug Ford defended the decision by saying that case numbers in the region are “out of control.”

"The numbers that we are seeing in Peel and specifically Brampton they are just going through the roof," Ford said at the time. 

Since then, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh has ordered stricter restrictions that took effect Monday morning and forced the closure of banquet halls and restricted indoor dining to tables only consisting of members of the same household. The new rules also mean that gyms already open to the public will shift to appointment only.

The new measures are intended to be revisited on a regular basis every two weeks, with the exception of wedding receptions which have served as a significant contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the region.

As such, wedding receptions and associated gatherings are prohibited starting Friday until Jan. 7, 2021, a date that health officials say could be pushed back even further depending on the public health situation at that time. 

During a separate news conference, Loh thanked the provincial government for its support while underscoring the importance of limiting social gatherings.

“More testing will allow us to identify where spread is occurring, where there’s additional areas of transmission that we may need to address,” Loh said.

“But ultimately, the biggest thing we all need to do at this point in time is really limit the number of in-person interactions that were having outside the household.”