Ontario is reporting its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks as the rolling seven-day average continues to slowly rise amid the presence of the more infectious Delta variant.

The Ministry of Health says that there were 218 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus confirmed on Wednesday along with another three deaths. That is the highest number of new cases in any single 24-hour period since 244 were reported back on July 6.

The latest positive cases come on nearly 20,000 individual tests, pointing to a positivity rate of 1.3 per cent which is the highest that number has been since July 5.

Meanwhile, the rolling-seven day average of new cases has now risen on each of the last three days and currently stands at 165. That is up more than six per cent from this time last week when it stood at 155.

The rate of growth, however, remains slow and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said on Tuesday that the trends continue to be positive, particularly when it comes to the burdens faced by hospitals and Ontario’s improving vaccination rate.

In fact, on Thursday morning, it was confirmed that 80 per cent of those eligible have now received at least one dose, which is a key metric for the province lifting the remaining public health restrictions.

“Overall we are paying close attention to how the numbers are trending in Ontario and elsewhere. But these trends are in the right direction,” Moore said earlier this week. “We know that once Delta variant gets a foothold in the community, it can spread quickly, particularly amongst unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals. So we all need to continue to remain vigilant.”

Cases had been on the decline for months in Ontario but the decrease stalled out earlier this month and over the last week or so there has been a rise in the number of people testing positive.

The increase is more or less in line with modelling released in June, which suggested that cases were likely to increase once the economy reopened but would not do so exponentially so long as vaccination rates continued to improve.

But it does comes as many jurisdictions begin to report surging case numbers, including some with high vaccination rates like the United Kingdom.

“When we look at their rising hospitalization rates it looks like most of them are unvaccinated people, partially vaccinated people or people who are vaccinated but didn’t give themselves enough time to develop protective immunity. So we can kind of see a little bit into our own future and we have to really take some cues from them to do a little bit better here,” Dr. Omar Khan, who is a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto, told CP24 on Thursday. “The Delta variant is definitely more transmissible and it is here so you are going to be exposed most likely and the concern now is for those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. They can still get sick and it you are sick you can still transmit.”

Of the latest cases reported on Thursday, 38 were in Toronto, 38 were in Peel Region, 25 were in Hamilton, 12 were in Halton Region, 10 were in York Region and eight were in Durham Region.

The good news is that hospitalizations continue to decline as the healthcare system works to cut through a surgical backlog that grew during successive lockdowns.

On Wednesday there were just 121 patients with COVID-19 in intensive care. That is the lowest that number has been since November.