Ontario hospitals call for more lockdowns as COVID-19 restrictions take effect in Sask., ease in P.E.I.

The latest:

Canada reported more than 7,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time on Thursday as provinces stepped up efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Of Thursday’s 7,008 new infections, 2,432 of them are in Ontario — a single-day record. The province also saw 23 more deaths.

The surging cases prompted the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) on Thursday to call for a four-week lockdown in every public health unit where there is an infection rate of 40 per 100,000 people or higher in order to protect their health-care systems.

“Ontario remains firmly caught in the grasp of a major second wave of COVID-19. Daily infection is now above 2,000 new cases per day. Hospitalization is increasing rapidly, as is the occupancy of intensive care units,” the OHA said in a statement.

WATCH | Toronto doctor shares powerful story of COVID-19 patients:

Dr. Michael Warner says the numbers of deaths are overwhelming, but behind each statistic is a real person with a grieving family who cannot be with them in their final moments. 6:21

At the province’s daily news conference Thursday, Premier Doug Ford said he appreciates the OHA’s input, and that he talks to hospital CEOs every day. Ford did not, however, commit to any further lockdown measures.

“It’s very, very concerning, the situation we’re facing right now,” Ford said. “Right now, everything is on the table. We always take the advice from the medical experts.”

Ford also said he was not considering any sort of a curfew, which has been seen in some places in the world particularly hard hit by the virus.

However, when asked about specific decisions the government is considering to stem the tide of cases, Ford repeatedly answered “everything is on the table.”

WATCH | ‘Everything is on the table’ to combat surge, says Ontario premier:

There are many things to consider before Ontario will tighten its lockdown of the province to slow the spread of the coronavirus, said Premier Doug Ford. But he said he will not make a ‘snap’ judgment about which course to take. 1:34

Meanwhile, Quebec is preparing to open another 21 COVID-19 vaccination sites across the province by Monday in addition to two that opened earlier this week at long-term care homes in Montreal and Quebec City.

That province registered 1,855 new cases and 22 more deaths on Thursday.

There are also more than 1,000 people in hospital with the virus for the first time since June.

WATCH | Bodycam video offers rare glimpse into Quebec ICU:

Three nurses at Quebec City’s Enfant-Jésus hospital open a window on the front lines of fight against the coronavirus and the people who are waging it. 2:16

In Saskatchewan, new restrictions took effect on Thursday as the province reported 238 new cases and seven deaths.

Under the new measures, in place until at least Jan. 15, residents can no longer have guests in their homes and outdoor socializing is capped at 10 people. 

Starting Saturday, bingo halls and casinos must also close, and personal care services, such as hairdressers, must reduce their capacity to half. Retailers have until Christmas Day before they also need to drop to 50 per cent capacity. Larger stores will be limited to 25 per cent.

WATCH | Sask. hospitals overloaded even as cases decline:

Daily COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan are declining, but hospitals and ICUs in the province are overloaded. All the while, many residents are growing frustrated with what they call mixed messages and contradictory restrictions. 2:02

A Statistics Canada report released Thursday says 97 per cent of Canadians surveyed in September reported they wore a mask in public when physical distancing was difficult.

The analysis, part of the Canadian Community Health Survey, also found three quarters would get a COVID-19 vaccine when available with the willingness highest in Prince Edward Island and lowest in Alberta.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 6:20 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 488,638, with 76,310 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 13,916.

British Columbia saw 673 new COVID-19 cases and 21 additional deaths on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna has fired some of its employees for breaking a social responsibility contract after health officials announced that 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been linked to the resort. 

Alberta announced 1,571 new cases and a single-day high of 30 more deaths.

The figures come as Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the province is expanding rapid testing to long-term care facilities, rural hospitals and urban homeless shelters. Shandro also said a new field hospital being set up at the University of Alberta’s Butterdome in Edmonton will be operational by January, but that it remains a last-ditch contingency.

A person wearing a face mask walks toward the University of Alberta Butter Dome in Edmonton on Thursday. The facility is being turned into a field hospital to help with COVID-19 patients. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba reported 221 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the lowest single-day increase in infections since 103 were registered on Nov. 3. The province also announced 14 more deaths related to the virus.

Nova Scotia added six new cases, bringing the province’s active caseload to 50.

New Brunswick, recorded six new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Southern Victoria High School in Perth-Andover has closed for two days after someone received a positive test result.

WATCH | N.B. chief medical officer urges residents to follow rules during holidays:

The province’s chief medical officer says she worries gatherings and non-essential travel could lead to a rise in cases of COVID-19. 2:51

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. The sources of those infections are unknown, according to the daily update provided by the province’s department of health, and an investigation is ongoing.

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison have announced an easing of COVID-19 restrictions, including larger gatherings, more visitors in long-term care homes and a resumption of organized sports. The announcement comes as the province reported one new case.

In the North, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories registered one new case each. Meanwhile, Yukon announced the territory has added more school buses and will implement new mask rules during bus rides in order to facilitate safe transportation for students in the upcoming school year.

What’s happening around the world

As of late Thursday, more than 74.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with more than 42.1 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a COVID-19 tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.6 million.

In Europe, Poland announced a “national quarantine” from Dec. 28 to Jan. 17 as the country is reporting about 10,000 new cases per day.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski says the restrictions will involve a 10-day quarantine for international arrivals, the closure of hotels, ski slopes and shopping centres and stores — except for those providing basic needs, such as food and medicine.

In Asia, South Korea added more than 1,000 infections to its coronavirus caseload for the second straight day amid growing fears that the virus is spreading out of control in the greater capital area.

Nearly 800 of the 1,014 new cases were reported from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where health officials have raised the alarm about a looming shortage in hospital capacities. 

Pedestrians wearing masks are seen at a shopping district in Tokyo on Thursday. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

In Africa, a second wave of infections is hitting the continent’s West and Central regions, and experts are warning it could be worse than the first as cooler weather descends on a region where most countries cannot afford a vaccine.

Nigeria, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo and Democratic Republic of Congo are all at or near record levels of infection, data compiled by Reuters shows. Infections in Senegal are also rising fast.

In the Americas, California health authorities are reporting a one-day record of 379 coronavirus deaths and more than 52,000 new confirmed cases. 

The staggering new figures mean the most populous state in the U.S. has seen more than 1,000 deaths in the last five days and nearly 106,000 cases in just two days. Many of the state’s hospitals are now running out of capacity to treat the severest cases.

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