TORONTO -- Health officials in Ontario are reporting 854 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday as well as two additional deaths linked to the disease.

The seven-day average for the number of cases reported in the province now stands at 729. A week ago, that number was 635 and two weeks ago it was 563.

On Friday, Ontario saw 927 new cases of the novel coronavirus, marking the highest single-day case total reported since Sept. 4 when the province logged 944 infections.

Saturday’s report comes a day after Canada announced that it would ban the entry of foreign nationals who may have travelled through southern Africa in the last two weeks. The decision was sparked by an announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO), which designated B.1.1.529 as a new COVID-19 variant of concern dubbed “Omicron.”

The variant, which was first reported from South Africa on Nov. 24, contains a “large number of mutations,” some of which “are concerning,” according to the WHO.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said that to date, there are no indications of the variant’s presence in Canada. However, Tam said it is “very difficult” to keep the mutation out of Canada “entirely.”

Hours before the announcement, Premier Doug Ford had publicly called on Ottawa to ban all flights and passengers from countries that are linked to the newly discovered variant, which include South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

Of the cases reported today, 451 involve unvaccinated individuals, 349 involve those who are fully vaccinated, 23 are partially vaccinated, and 31 were found in those without a known vaccination status.

Right now, there are 254 patients in hospital with COVID-19, including 83 unvaccinated patients, 48 fully vaccinated patients, and eight partially vaccinated patients. The vaccination status of the remaining 115 patients is unknown.

ICU admissions for COVID-19 total 134, 60 of those patients are unvaccinated, 11 are fully vaccinated, and three are partially vaccinated. No vaccination information was provided for the remaining 60 patients.

With 31,444 tests processed in the last 24 hours, the province said that its COVID-19 positivity rate is 3 per cent.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Ontario has recorded 616,051 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 599,979 recoveries and 9,993 deaths – two of which were reported in the last 24 hours.

WHERE ARE THE NEW COVID-19 CASES?

Most of the cases reported by the province on Saturday were found in Simcoe Muskoka (107), Toronto (97), and Windsor-Essex (82).

Other areas with relatively high case numbers reported today include York Region (48), Peel Region (47), Ottawa (44), Sudbury (43), Algoma (38), and Kingston (33).

UPDATE ON COVID-19 VACCINATIONS

Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet published Saturday that nearly 89.4 per cent of all Ontarians over the age of 12 have one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Close to 86.3 per cent have two doses and are considered to be fully vaccinated.

Throughout the province’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, 22,895,217 needles have gone into arms across Ontario.

Backstory:

The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health's COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.

Health experts have said the number of COVID-19 infections identified in fully vaccinated individuals will naturally increase as more people get both of their shots.