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Province extends hydro rate relief to October

Also announces support measures for retirement homes

TORONTO — Ontario is extending its COVID-19 residential electricity rate relief for another five months, but the fixed price will be going up by nearly three cents per kilowatt hour.

Premier Doug Ford's office said Saturday that hydro rates will now be a flat 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour, regardless of the time of day.

That's higher than the 10.1 cents per hour being that's been charged since electricity relief was introduced on March 24, but still well below peak rates that can reach as high as 20.8 cents.

The province says the changes will be effective June 1 and last until Oct. 31, while industrial and commercial businesses will also see an extension of the COVID-19 relief through the end of June.

When the COVID-19 hydro rate relief was first announced, it was expected to affect about five million residential ratepayers, farms and small businesses subject to time-of-use pricing.

Ontario surpassed its daily target of 16,000 tests for the third consecutive day with the latest figures reported on Saturday.

There were 20,640 tests completed on Friday, though the total was still below the province's daily capacity of nearly 25,000 tests.

The province reported 323 new COVID-19 cases, and 17 more deaths.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the province is now 27,533, an increase of 1.2 per cent over the previous day. It includes 2,247 deaths and 21,353 cases that have been resolved.

A total of 801 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, with 121 patients in intensive care units and 84 on ventilators.

The province also confirmed five more outbreaks in long-term care facilities, bringing the total to 305 outbreaks in homes.

The Ontario government said on Saturday it would boost funds for retirement home residents in cases of emergency. Amendments to the regulations will allow eligible residents to receive from $2,000 to $3,500 towards costs of transportation, alternative housing or temporary care.

The changes will also require retirement homes to report infectious disease outbreaks to the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority during the pandemic and in any future cases.

"We are making sure seniors have the financial resources they need in the event of an emergency, and are making it easier for the retirement home regulator to work with local public health authorities," Ford said in a press release.

The provincial government also outlined numerous other measures taking effect in the coming days.

Drive-in movie theatres and batting cages will be reopen effective Sunday with physical distancing measures in effect.

And backcountry campers will be allowed to return to provincial parks on Monday with certain stipulations. No more than five people will be allowed to occupy a single campsite, unless they live in the same household.

Provincial parks will also expand permission for picnics and off-leash pet areas.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2020.

The Canadian Press