Ontario is reporting more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 for a second consecutive day but the overall positivity rate is the lowest it has been since October.

The Ministry of Health says that there were 1,150 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus confirmed on Thursday, as the province’s labs processed more than 65,000 individuals tests.

The ministry says that the positivity rate over the last 24 hours was 2.1 per cent, down from 2.2 per cent one day prior. It is the lowest that number has been since Oct. 16.

There were, however, 47 additional deaths reported on Friday.

It’s the highest total in two weeks and marks the second straight day that the Ministry of Health has reported more than 40 deaths in a single 24-hour period.

The seven-day rolling average of deaths now stands at 26.8, up from 23.8 at this time last week.

The seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases is up to 1,026 after a slight increase over the last 24 hours. But it is down nearly 13 per cent from this time last week when it stood at 1,179 and well off the post-holiday peak of 3,273 on Jan. 15.

Meanwhile, confirmed cases of the so-called variants of concern continue to increase amid warnings that the more infectious B.1.1.7 strain that first originated in the United Kingdom will become dominant in this province by March.

On Friday, the province reported an additional 39 confirmed cases of COVID variants, bringing the total so far to 395. Officials, however, have said that hundreds of additional samples have screened positive for a variant of concern and that the new strains likely make up an even higher proportion of new cases than we realize.

“In essence the data is going in the right direction. We are in that descending part there but we're watching at the same time the variants of concern and we've seen that percent on the seven -day rolling average going up from 6.7 (per cent of all cases) a couple weeks ago to seven and then eight and then recently 9.5 per cent,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams warned during a briefing on Thursday afternoon. “So it's precarious, it is tenuous.”

Of the new cases reported on Friday, 376 were in Toronto, 264 were in Peel, 108 were in York Region, 43 were in Hamilton, 41 were in Durham and 37 were in Halton.

There were also an additional 73 cases in Ottawa, which is the highest number in that health unit so far this month.

Encouragingly, hospitalizations related do COVID-19 continue to trend downwards, freeing up capacity in some hospitals in hard-hit regions. As of Thursday, the ministry was reporting that there were 689 COVID patients in Ontario hospitals, including 269 in intensive care units.

COVID-19 hospitalizations previously peaked at 1,701 on Jan. 12.

“People in Ontario have done quite well keeping at home and being less mobile but we still have to be really cautious, even as the province is going through processes of entering back into the (reopening framework),” Williams said Thursday. “Even if you're in a red zone, a green zone, a yellow zone or a orange zone, it doesn't matter. The personal protections still have to be taken because we've seen some, even our most remote areas, all of a sudden they have a very big concern and there is an outbreak that occurs. So just because you happen to be in one of those zones, does not mean you have no risk at all.”

There have been more than 290,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and 6,820 deaths.