Rising COVID-19 cases lead to stronger measures across Canada to slow spread

·2 min read

Quebec reported a record number of COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, while a major Toronto hospital network has stopped non-essential care and surgery as the highly transmissible Omicron variant washes across the country.

Across the country, governments took steps to try and stem the number of cases and blunt the impact of Omicron.

In Montreal, Mayor Valérie Plante reintroduced a state of emergency as the number of active COVID-19 cases soared to over 8,000 in the city.

Health officials in Quebec reported 5,043 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths.

Ontario announced 3,453 new COVID-19 cases and 11 fatalities as some health units struggled to keep up with contact tracing and testing efforts amid spiking demand.

The Unity Health network, which runs three hospitals in Toronto, said it had made the "difficult decision" to pause non-essential ambulatory care and surgical procedures, with the exception of urgent cases.

Stricter visiting policies have also been introduced in several Ontario hospitals, while in-patients staying fewer than seven days will not be allowed to have visitors.

Omicron has largely overtaken the rising wave of infections in the province, even for those vaccinated with both COVID-19 shots. In Ontario, it's estimated Omicron made up about 88 per cent of cases as of Tuesday.

In response to the variant threat, Ontario and Alberta are speeding up their booster doses for all adults.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said anyone 18 and older can book a third shot provided the second one was more than five months ago.

Ontario opened eligibility for all those who have had their second dose three months ago as of this week.

Ottawa Public Health has asked residents who have symptoms but can't access a timely test to assume they are infected and self-isolate.

Prince Edward Island joined Newfoundland and Labrador in announcing isolation requirements for all visitors in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said every traveller entering the province will be given two rapid tests and be required to complete them on the second and fourth days of their isolation. The province also introduced more restrictions with bars and restaurants stopping service to customers at 11 p.m.

"To get back to some kind of normal in our province, we need to do this," King said.

"We need to limit travel, we need to limit our personal interactions. This isn't the time for parties, for gatherings or staff celebrations."

Capacity restrictions have also been brought in for some businesses, entertainment venues and social gatherings in Ontario and Manitoba as well as some other provinces.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2021.

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

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